Los Dias de los Muertos are the Mexican “The Days of the Dead”, often refered to simply at Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead. It is a Mexican holiday that mingles the Aztec culture and Catholicism. The Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl governed a month long celebration for the dead. When the Spanish invaded Mexico, they brought with them the religion and practices of the Catholic Church, including new ideas about death. The festival is still held but it has been greatly reduced. The Aztecs believed the souls of the departed remained on earth in the form of butterflies and birds. When the Monarch butterflies returned (they migrating to Mexico for the winter), the souls of the departed are welcomed home.
The celebration actually takes place over several days.
- October 27th bread and water are offered to those spirits who have no earthy survivors.
- October 28th bread and water are left in a corner of the church for those spirits whom have committed crimes of a violent nature, as they are not welcome in homes.
- The next few days bakeries and candy stores burst forth with edible skulls, skeletons, and crosses.
- October 31st is the time when the souls of children return home. They remain and visit until midday on November 1st when they must return to the spirit world. Now it is time for the adult spirits to be remembered.
- A lively procession with an open coffin parades through the town. The “corpse” waves and smiles. Families gather in the graveyard. They clean, paint, and repair the gravestones. An ofrenda (an altar) is constructed near the headstone. Candles are lit for each departed soul and zenpasuchitls (also known as cempazuchitl, the traditional flower of the dead) adorn the grave. It is believed that the strong scent of these marigolds help the spirits make their way to this world. All day people prepare for this all night gala. This is by no means a somber event. The dead are welcomed happily. The favorite foods of the departed have been prepared. Roaming musicians play the favorite music of the departed. Some people even bring radios and televisions. Food vendors set up outside the cemetery gates for those who are not quite prepared or have late night munchies. At the close of the celebration people run around with skulls masks and ghost costumes to scare away any spirits that might not want to return to the other world.
How can you celebrate Los Dias de los Muertos?
- Remember friends and family members who have passed away. Talk about them and make one of their favorite foods.
- Take the petals of a marigold and scatter them at your front door.
- Make some fun foods and crafts.
Use the navigation area on the left to find crafts and recipes.