2What is the Day of the Dead? The Day of the Dead is a joyous celebration unique to Mexico. It combines Christian and Pre-Hispanic religious beliefs and traditions. Each family builds a shrine to honor and pay loving tribute to departed family members. Dia de los Muertos concentrates on the continuity of life and the devotion of family.
3This day of remembrance is both a cultural and religious event This day of remembrance is both a cultural and religious event. It is the most important holiday in Mexico. The way in which it is celebrated differs from region to region due to the differences that have been passed down since ancient times in each region. So if you were to see a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City, for example, it would differ greatly from the way people would be celebrating it in Cuilapan, Oaxaca, an ancient capital of the Zapotec people.
4City vs. CountryThe more urban the setting the less religious and cultural the festivities will be within Mexico. The more rural and Indian the locality the more likely the religious and economic aspects will play a main role in the celebration . Also, the greater likelihood that the Day of the Dead will be seen as a social event in southern Mexico rather than in the northern part of the country.
5When is Dia de los Muertos? The Day of the Dead is celebrated from October 31st through November 2nd. These dates correspond with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, traditional Catholic celebrations. But Dia de los Muertos is NOT in any way to be considered as Mexico’s form of our Halloween. It is, in fact, much closer to our celebration of Memorial Day. Neither is it the only holiday around the world set aside as a day of remembrance. In other countries and cultures, there are similar holidays which pay tribute to the dead.
6CanadaOn November 11th each year, Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day by wearing red poppies. They gather at memorial sites to honor those who died in war. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time the Armistice of World War I was signed in 1918, Canadians observe two minutes of silence as a way of remembering the dead.
7Yom Ha’ShoaThis is a Jewish day of remembrance celebrated by Jews worldwide to honor the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust in World War II.People here are attending the remembrance ceremony at Israel's Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day in April. Some of the people shown here are Holocaust survivors.
8How is the Day of the Dead celebrated? In every home, families set up an altar (ofrenda) that is dedicated to their departed loved ones. The offerings that are placed on the altar symbolize the four elements:EarthWindWaterFire.
9EarthMexicans symbolize the earth with crops because they believe that the souls of the dead are fed by the scent of food.
10WindA moving object is used to symbolize wind. Often tissue paper is strung over and around the altar in streamers to represent the wind.
11WaterA pitcher filled with water is placed on the altar so the dead can quench their thirst.
12FireMexicans light candles to stand for the souls of their departed. Each lit candle represents one soul and an extra one is lit for any soul who may have been forgotten.
13What else goes on the altar? Families may put purple or white candles which symbolize mourning, calaveritas (skulls made out of sugar) labeled with the name of the dead person, and some of his or her favorite food and drinks like beer or tequila, cups of atole (corn gruel), coffee, or water on the ofrenda. The food may include large trays of rice, beans, chicken or other meat, candied pumpkin or sweet potatoes and “pan de muerto”, sugary sweet rolls baked especially for the holiday.If the deceased was a smoker, a pack of cigarettes is placed on the altar, and for children, a scattering of toys and extra sweets are traditional.Altars are set up on tables with overturned crates to create a tiered effect, then covered with tablecloths. All the offerings are set out in an artistic and symmetrical fashion to create a beautiful display.
14AngelitosThe lowest tier of the altar is used to display things for children who have died (angelitos). It is believed that the souls of the children return first so food and gifts appropriate for their age and taste are set out for them where it is easiest for them to reach. Everything is in miniature: cups, plates, small breads, etc.
15Legend has it that if you take something from the ofrenda, a ghost will come in the middle of the night and pull your toes!
16AdultsDeceased adults return on Nov. 1st and they are given the most elaborate foods and drinks the family can afford. Mexicans believe that light from burning candles, combined with the scents of marigold flowers and copal incense, help returning souls find their way back to their loved ones. Paths of marigold petals are strewn from the cemetery to the door of the house. The dead can find their way by following this bright, colorful path. The spirits are not usually seen, but their presence is said to be felt.
17Todos SantosThe days between Oct. 31st and Nov. 2nd are called "Todos Santos”. That is when the offerings made up of food and drink are prepared for the dead and displayed on the altars. On Nov. 2nd, families go to the gravesites of their loved ones. In some places, an all-night candlelight vigil takes place beside the graves. This is a festive time and everyone talks of the dead as if they were still alive. It is a way for people to "remember, re-live, and enjoy."
18On the lighter side…The Day of the Dead is more than just a day for remembering their loved ones. This holiday lets families "welcome the souls of their dead." The souls are believed to return each year to enjoy the pleasures that they once had in life. It also gives the living a chance to poke fun at the morbid side of death symbolized by the “Grim Reaper.” So skeleton costumes and skulls made of sugar are often seen during the celebration.
19At the CemeteryThe celebration ends with a visit to the family plot where displays are made from beautiful, creative pieces of popular art found in markets and shops all over Mexico. Although customs differ from region to region, there will always be colorful adornments such as the calaveritas; all kinds of funny, artsy skeletons; delicate tissue paper cut-outs (papel picado); tasty foods; pictures of the departed; religious ceremonies; music; and in some areas even noisy fireworks.
20Graves are trimmed with brightly colored wreaths and crosses made with flowers which can be fresh or artificial. The traditional flower for Dia de los Muertos is the marigold because its sunny color is a reminder of happy times.Cempasuchil (yellow marigolds) were the ancient Aztec flower of death.
21The Day’s EventsFamilies begin their celebration by welcoming their dead back into their homes then visiting the graves of their close kin. At the cemetery, they spruce up the gravesite, decorate it with flowers, enjoy a picnic, and socialize with other family and neighbors there.
22The Mexican people tell folktales of dead spirits who get revenge on the living if they feel they have received poor treatment during Dia de los Muertos. Leaving nothing or less than the best gifts on the altar can make the spirits angry or sad. These superstitions may be the reason so many people participate in this holiday celebration every year.
23People believe that the souls of their dead do return and are all around them.
24The families tell stories about the deceased at the gravesite The families tell stories about the deceased at the gravesite. A picnic meal is shared there. The foods are delicious with meat dishes in spicy sauces, chocolate drinks, cookies, sugary treats in a variety of animal or skull shapes, and a special egg-batter bread ("pan de muerto," or bread of the dead).
25In every region of the country, it is a time for families to come together.
26So this commemoration of the dead becomes a family reunion with joyous celebration between the living and the dead. It is an important social ritual, a way of recognizing the cycle of life and death as the true meaning of human existence.
27A Different Point of View It may seem strange to us but Mexicans see "death" and "festivities" as going hand in hand. To us, it may be difficult to grasp the idea, but Mexicans react to death with a grief tinged with happiness and joy. They view it as a life - death - rebirth continuum and it is all quite natural to them. The difference in the way Mexicans look at death owes to the fact that they accept it as an inevitable and inescapable end to life. So instead of seeing death as a horrible force beyond human comprehension and living in constant fear of the day when they, too, will die, they take it in good humor.
28Death is something to be mocked at according to the Mexican way of looking at it. La calaca (the skeleton), la flaca ("skinny"), la pelona ("baldy") and la huesada ("bony") are some of the common derogatory adjectives they use for death. There are also songs, poems and refrains associated with the Day of the Dead.
29Octavio PazOctavio Paz, a famous writer from Mexico said," Mexicans, undaunted by death, have no qualms about getting up close and personal with death, chasing after it, mocking it, courting it, embracing it as their favorite plaything and their most lasting love.”What do you think he meant by this?
30CatrinaWho is Catrina and what does she have to do with Dia de los Muertos?
31Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) Jose Posada was a Mexican artist whose artwork came to represent the celebration of Day of the Dead. In Mexico, people were either very rich or very poor. His most famous creation, Catrina, represented a wealthy woman dressed in all her finery. But Posada was poking fun at the rich through Catrina by asking in death, what difference will it make if you were rich? After all, you’re still as dead as if you had been poor.
32Variations on Catrina Why do you think Mexicans might find Posada’s artappealing?
34What Day of the Dead Isn’t It is not Mexico’s version of our Halloween. Started in the year 1800 B.C., Day of the Dead began long before Halloween.It is not intended to be scary or morbid. Characters like ghosts, witches, or the devil do not play a part in Day of the Dead traditions.
35Day of the Dead is not a cult and has nothing to do with cults Day of the Dead is not a cult and has nothing to do with cults. It is a Catholic Christian ritual mixed with folk culture. Attending mass is a central part of celebrating Day of the Dead.Day of the Dead is not a way of honoring death; it is a way of honoring our dead family members. It allows us the chance to reflect upon our lives, our heritage, our loved ones and our purpose in life.
36Altars or ofrendas are not worshiped but intended as a way of offering our love and devotion to departed loved ones.Day of the Dead is not a sad time, but rather a happy and festive time for remembering loved ones. At the cemetery, people grow introspective. Why?
38Day of the Dead is not to be considered as “strange” in any way Day of the Dead is not to be considered as “strange” in any way. After all, we practice similar traditions like visiting a loved one’s grave, leaving flowers or stuffed animals, or lighting candles for our lost loved ones.
39Day of the Dead is not a careless or fearless way of looking at death Day of the Dead is not a careless or fearless way of looking at death. Instead, it is a time to ponder the cycle of life and death, to consider one’s own life and purpose in life.
40Want to join in on the celebration now? You, too, can make an ofrenda. This ofrenda was created in an elementary school art class in Las Vegas.