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Saturday, October 30, 2010


To us Mexicans the day of the dead is a celebration in which we bond with the souls of the people that we love and have left before us. To us THE DAY OF THE DEAD is a celebration of family and life. It is a tradition of pre-hispanic origins and was celebrated by the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas.

The United Nations Educational, scientific and Cultural organization has declared this festivity "patrimonio cultural intangible de la humanidad" (intangible cultural heritage) and it is now the most celebrated Hispanic festivity the world over.

The day of the dead celebration in Mexico can be traced back to indigenous cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500 to 3,00 years. In pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals that symbolize death and rebirth.
The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the god known as "The Lady of the Dead" corresponding to the modern "La Catrina"
In most regions of Mexico, November 1 honours children and infants, whereas deceased adults are celebrated November 2. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 as "Dia de los Inocentes" (Day of the innocents) but also as "Dia de los Angelitos" (Day of the little angels) and November 2 as dia de los muertos or dia de los difuntos (Day of the Dead)

The adults souls will begin arriving at their loved ones homes anytime of the night of the 31. All saints` day is for the "Angelitos" or little infants, it is on this day that their souls return to be our guests. In many places people confuse Halloween with the Day of the Dead because of the calendar overlap.

People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing their favourite foods and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls. so that the souls will hear the prayers and comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations will often take humorous tones as people remember funny facts and stories of the deceased.
People often go to cemeteries to clean grave yards and decorate them with ofrendas ("Offerings") it is common to see graves decorated with Mexican orange marigolds called cempasuchitl, originally called cempoalxochitl. Nahuatl for (twenty flowers), it is also called "The flower of the dead" and it is thought that its scent attracts souls of the dead to the offerings, the paths to the graveyards are covered with the petals of these flowers to guide the souls
The most common offerings to attract spirits are: Marigolds, beverages like tequila, mezcal y atole (it is thought that the word "spirits" as in wine and spirits had its origins here.)

Pan de muerto (Bread of the dead)
sugar skulls with the name of the departed written across its forehead
and the deceased favourite foods, music, and things the loved one was close to.
The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the departed. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the `spiritual essence` of the ofrendas food, so even though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, it is believed that the food lacks nutritional value.

I consider this festivity appealing because of the combination of art, culture, food and folk. It is not intended to be a morbid celebration at all, but a celebration of Life itself.

The Mayans and the Aztecs considered this life to be nothing but a dream, and when we die is when we truly awake and are able to enjoy. Given the situation we are in at the moment, climate changes, the quality of life and all the chaos and atrocities happening here on this big blue ball of clay, I do not think it would be such a bad idea to wake up somewhere else where we can truly enjoy ourselves, but that`s just me.


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