Dia de los Muertos, “Day of the Dead,” a Spanish celebration honoring the dead, is a Mexican holiday. It is celebrated, especially in the Central and South regions of Mexico. It’s a ritual that the Spanish have been practicing for at least 3,000 years. The day of the dead is also celebrated in certain parts of the United States.
The tradition was originated in Mexico and is celebrated on November 1. The festivities start on October 31st. Family members decorate the graves of their loved ones, often creating small, personal altars honoring the person. Sugar skulls, a skull made out of clay molded sugar and decorated with feathers and colored beads, are used to decorate the gravestones of the deceased. It’s a loving ritual filled with joy and love.
It is believed that, if a spirit returns and finds that no one has built an altar for them, they will feel sad and angry. Those neglected spirits may seek revenge on those who have forgotten them. Also, many folk tales explain how those who ignored their deceased loved ones will be struck ill immediately and die shortly after the holiday. Thus, some people take part in the festivities out of fear or superstition rather than love.
The most popular ways of celebrating Dia de los Muertos is by:
• Telling stories about the deceased loved one
• Creating an altar with offerings such as symbols and object of importance to the deceased.
• Cleaning and decorating their grave
• Holding all night vigils at the gravesite
• Making sugar skulls
So, basically, celebrating the “Day of the Dead” is nothing more than honoring dead relatives, both young and old and allowing them to return to the mortal world to visit loved ones. Instead of scary ghosts and goblins, the people of Mexico welcome their family spirits with the aroma of delicious food, decorated candy skulls and lighted candles to guide them home again.
This practice is new to me. I’ve never heard of it before, but I’m glad I happened across an article explaining the custom. In my opinion, it is a beautiful way to celebrate and honor a deceased family member, and a wonderful way to let that family member know how much they are appreciated, loved and missed.