The Day of the Dead


Day of the dead offering

Day of the dead offering

By Heather C Thomson

While many have spent the Halloween weekend dressed in scary costumes, collecting sweets and/or drinking themselves silly – dependent on their age – November 1st and 2nd is the really macabre time for it is Dia de los Incocentes (Day of the Innocents) and Dia de los Muetos(Day of the Dead).

A holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico, Spain and Portugal, connected to the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, it is a time to remember ancestors, and others who are deceased, and make offerings in their name.

Day of the Innocents specifically remembers children and infants, while adults are honoured on November 2nd on the Day of the Dead.

Catrinas, a popular figure of the Day of Dead in Mexico

Commemoration of death has been observed in pre-Hispanic cultures located in present day Mexico for 2,500 to 3,000 years, with the display of skulls during rituals symbolising the relationship between death and rebirth.

It is commonly believed to be connected with the Aztec festival honouring the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of death.

The skull is a common symbol for this holiday, known as calavera, which is used in masks and represented in foods, typically sugar sweets and chocolate which are given as gifts.

Celebrations include public gatherings in town squares where citizens dance in colourful costumes and where skull or devil masks.

In Los Angeles the annual Day of the Dead celebrations includes political elements where altars are erected to honour casualties of the Iraq War, emphasising the high fatality rate amongst Latino solders.

Voodoo traditions are mixed with Roman Catholic observances in Haiti where drums beats and music are played through the night in cemeteries to waken Baron Samedi, the Loa of the dead, who acts as an intermediary with the Creator.

Celebrations in USA

In Europe mainly Roman Catholic countries celebrate the same holidays by leaving flowers and lit candles at graves after praying for their souls.

Araw ng mga Patay (Day of the Dead) is celebrated in the Philippines as a family reunion where entire families gather and spend the night in the cemetery next to their ancestors’ graves, eating, drinking, singing and playing cards

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