The Day of the Dead in Mexico is celebrated on Friday, November 2, 2018. It is a Mexican festival of pre-Hispanic origin that honors the deceased. On this date the families usually clean and decorate the tombs with colorful wreaths of roses, sunflowers, and mainly of Cempasúchil. The Cempasúchil, known as the flower of the hundred petals, is believed to attract and guide the souls of the dead. In addition, yellow is the color of death in pre-Hispanic Mexico.

Tombstones and cemeteries are cleaned and adorned in traditional decorations (and altars built) usually by family members or friends of the deceased as part of the Dia de los Muertos celebration.

The Day of the Dead originated in Mexico and has spread throughout Latin America. Currently also to other regions of the United States. In this tradition, pre-Hispanic culture and Catholic religion are mixed. It is believed that the souls of the children return to visit on November 1, and the souls of the adults return on November 2.

Day of the Dead Souvenirs

Day of the Dead Souvenirs

• On November 1, the festival begins by decorating the altars with paper of many colors and flowers of cempasúchil. If the altar is for a child, toys such as carts, dolls and sweets are placed.

• On November 2 is celebrated the festivity of the dead in Mexico, where a great diversity of customs.

Girls dressed in Day of the Dead costumes

Girls dressed in Day of the Dead costumes

Families spend long hours working at the altar. Many of these altars are considered true works of art, as they reflect the work, dedication and creativity of the people. They usually pepararse inside the houses, on a table covered with a tablecloth placing a photograph of the deceased person. It is decorated with flowers and some memories.

Family Adorned in the traditional costumes

Family Adorned in the traditional costumes

The Day of the Dead has a series of contradictions:

• It’s not Halloween, but it includes costumes and lots of sweets.
• It is a day for the dead celebrated by the living.
• It is serious as well as fun; remembering the loved one’s who are no longer with us and at the same celebrating life.
• It is traditional but has also become commercialized.

Origin of the Day of the Dead:

The origins go back to the time of the natives of Mesoamerica, such as the Aztecs, Mayas, Purepechas, Nahuas and Totonacas. For more than 3,000 years, rituals were held to celebrate the lives of their ancestors. At that time it was common practice to preserve the skulls as trophies. These skulls were shown in the rituals that symbolized death and rebirth.

When the Spanish conquerors arrived in the 15th century, they were terrified by these practices. In an attempt to convert Native Americans to Catholicism they adapted this festival by matching the Christian holiday of All Saints Day (November 1), which is after Halloween (October 31). In the end they combined the pagan customs of Halloween with the Mesoamerican festival, creating what today is known as the “Day of the Dead” celebration.

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