What is Day of the Dead?
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican tradition that dates back to pre-Hispanic times. It is a time to honor and remember the deceased, who are believed to return to visit their families during this period. Unlike Halloween, which is associated with fear and horror, Dia de los Muertos is a joyful and colorful celebration of life.
The main days of the festivity are November 1st and 2nd, but the preparations begin weeks in advance. People create altars or ofrendas in their homes or at the graves of their loved ones. These altars are decorated with flowers, candles, photos, food, drinks and other items that represent the personality and preferences of the departed. The most iconic flower is the cempasúchil or marigold, which is said to guide the souls with its bright color and scent.
What is La Catrina?
Another characteristic element of Dia de los Muertos is the calavera or skull. These can be made of sugar, chocolate, clay or paper Mache, and are often painted with intricate designs and patterns. They symbolize the duality of life and death, and sometimes have the names of the deceased written on them. The most famous calavera is La Catrina, a female skeleton dressed in elegant clothes. La Catrina is a well-known character in Mexican culture, especially during the Day of the Dead celebrations. She is a skeleton wearing fancy clothes and a hat, showing the idea that death is unavoidable and does not care about social status.
La Catrina was made by the artist Jose Guadalupe Posada in the early 20th century. Today, La Catrina is seen as a symbol of Mexican identity, mixing of races and spirituality. Many people dress up as her or paint their faces like skulls on the Day of the Dead, which is a celebration of life and memory of the ancestors. La Catrina is a reminder that death is not something to be scared of, but rather a natural part of life that can be celebrated with humor and happiness.
The Dishes and Celebrations
One of the most delicious aspects of Dia de los Muertos is the food. Some of the typical dishes are mole, tamales, pozole and atole. But the most emblematic one is the pan de muerto or bread of the dead. This is a sweet bread that has different shapes depending on the region, but usually has a round base with bone-like decorations on top. It is often sprinkled with sugar or sesame seeds, and can be filled with cream, chocolate or cheese.
Dia de los Muertos is not only a family affair, but also a community one. In many towns and cities, there are parades, festivals, concerts and exhibitions related to the occasion. People dress up as skeletons or other characters, and wear masks, hats and flowers. They dance, sing and play music, creating a festive atmosphere that contrasts with the solemnity of death.
Dia de los Muertos is a unique and rich tradition that reflects the Mexican culture and worldview. It is a way of honoring the past, celebrating the present and embracing the future. It is a reminder that death is not the end, but a transition to another stage of existence.