Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Day of the Dead

Just like witches, black cats and pumpkins are typical symbols of Halloween, skulls, orange marigolds and monarch butterflies are associated with Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. However, this annual fete, is not a Mexican version of Halloween. Though related, the holidays differ greatly in traditions and ambience. Whereas Halloween is a night of terror and tricks, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in a burst of color and life-sustaining joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the intention is to show love and respect for deceased family members.

Día de los Muertos originated in Mexico and Central America where native tribes had specific days when they honored their loved ones based on whether the deceased was an adult or a child. When the Spanish arrived, this ritual of memorializing the dead became two holidays: All Saints Day on November 1st and All Soul’s Day on the 2nd. Día de los Muertos is typically celebrated on the 1st as a day to remember children who have passed away, and the 2nd to honor adults.

These ancient tribes believed that death was part of the journey of life. Rather than death being the end of life, families view death as the beginning of the cycle of seasons and new life. This cycle is often associated with the cyclical nature of agriculture, like crops grown from the ground where the last crop lies buried.

The Day of the Dead is an occasion to remember and celebrate the lives of departed loved ones. It is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living families in homes, businesses and cemeteries. And as with many celebrations, the days are filled with music and dancing. The ofrenda, is the most recognized symbol. This temporary altar is a way for families to honor their loved ones and provide them what they love while on their journey.

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