Dia de Los Muertos – About Day of the Dead in Mexico
The Day of the Dead, or more aptly, the Days of the Dead in Mexico, are celebrated the day after Halloween, November 1 and 2. All these two holidays have in common is proximity on the calendar and the sharing of a skeleton or two.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is not a scary ghost and goblins running in the night Mexican adaptation. The holiday is for honoring, celebrating and remembering family that has gone before. It serves to educate young family members with their ancestors by visiting grave sites, cleaning and adorning the crypts with flowers and gifts for the departed. November 1 is usually set aside to honor dead infants and children, "angelitos" or little angles and November 2 for honoring those who died as adults.
The celebration goes back to pre-Columbian times. Aztec cultures celebrated their ancestry in a similar holiday in late July. Rather than abolish the pagan ritual the Spanish move the holiday to November 1 and 2 to coincide with All Saints day and All Souls day. As with many ancient cultures, the pre-Columbia dead were buried along with possessions that would help them trough the next life. Their remembrance on that day also served to 're-supply' the departed.
Hand made skeleton figures called 'calacas' representing a need of the dead or a bonding with the living are left. They range from store bought plastic to intricate dioramas of matchsticks and paper.
Celebrations vary throughout Mexico. Some celebrations involve groups running through the streets, carrying a 'dead man' in an open coffin. The dead man smiles and waves at the crowd and they respond with oranges and little candies. Revelers wear masks of skeletons and cloaks, bringing to mind the Grim Reaper.
In other celebrations families picnic at the grave sides and drink toasts to the departed of cervesa and tequila.
It all stems from a different relationship with Death than is common in American culture. Death is a woman, known as la Flaca, la Huesuda, la Pelona or La Catrina (the Skinny, the Boney, the Baldy or the Fancy Lady. I never did like the image of being cut down as grain by the Grim Reaper. The thought that, after a hard life, full of toil, to be taken home to rest by The Fancy Lady is much more appealing.
Visitors to Mexico seem to have a fascination with this holiday and every year tourists flock to Mexico to partake in the events. A large number of well researched websites are devoted solely to this holiday and you find links to them below.