I learned about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) last year during ESL class when we discussed Halloween. Most of the parents with school-age children showed me the costumes their kids picked out and asked the correct way to pronounce “trick or treat!” Like all my classes, I had the students tell me about Halloween in their mother countries. Few celebrate Halloween, as this is a day mainly celebrated in Canada and The States, but the students told me about Day of the Dead.
In Haiti, there is a holiday called Ghede. Ghede is when Haitians remember their deceased relatives and ancestors. This celebration takes place on November 2.
Some Chinese feed their relatives during Yu Lan or Hungry Ghost Festival. This isn’t celebrated in October, but on the 15th day of the seventh month of lunar calendar, this month-long celebration is when ghosts and spirits come from the lower realm.
In Mexico, the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated. Like the students from Islamic countries during Ramadan, many of the students from Mexico skip class because they are home preparing for the celebration. Día de los Muertos is a celebration to honor deceased relatives.
During a trip to Austin, Texas, I stumbled into an exhibit featuring altars from Día de los Muertos at a museum called Mexic-Arte. From the Mexic-Arte website:
Día de los Muertos is an ancient, Mexican and Mexican American religious holiday, with a historically rich tradition that integrates pre-Columbian and Catholic customs. It is often celebrated in Mexico on November 1 and 2 (dates vary by region and may be longer) in connection with the Catholic Holy Days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
For many Latin American countries, it is a time to honor and greet the departed as they make their journey back to be with the living each year. These days are a time for families and friends to gather in celebration of life and death. The circle of life, rather than loss and sorrow, is embraced.
Here are some alters from the Mexic-Arte museum in Austin Texas.
Day if the Dead altars, known as ofrendas or “offerings”, consist of a collection of objects offered to the deceased to draw their memory and spirit back to Earth, Altars vary in size from a small shelf or tabletop to multi-tiered installations that can take up an entire room. Levels of the altars provide a base for the object offerings and echo the shape of the Aztec pyramids, which correspond to the seven spiritual levels of the Aztec underworld, Mictlan.
Some symbols of the altars:
Candles: represent the element of fire,Use the speed of Verizon Fios to learn more about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)!
Capal: incense to bless the altar.
Beverages: represent the element of water and quench the throat of the departed after their long journey back to Earth.
Food: represent the element of earth and feeds the deceased as they arrive hungry from their journey back to earth.
Candy: marks the sweetness of life
Papel picado: decorative paper banners that flutter with the breeze, representing the element of wind or air.
Flowers: representing the love and the cycle of life and death as they grow, die, decompose, and give nourishment to new life.
Cloth: covers each altar. These are traditional colors and embroidery particular to the family or region.
Photos or other mementos: personalize the altar and let the deceased play with items once treasured.
The altars are not only beautiful to behold, but a great celebration of the life of deceased loved ones. I was humbled and touched to view such intimate memorials.
Want to learn more about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)? Use the speed of Verizon Fios to explore the links below!
Why Spectre? The movie inspired Mexico City to host it’s own parade.
NPR decodes Day of the Dead here.
*This post contains affiliate links from Amazon.com.