The Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead
Imagine yourself in a cemetery, commemorating your great-grandpa. Dia De Los
Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is celebrated in Mexico on November 2nd. The Day of
the Dead is one of Mexico\'s traditional holidays reuniting and honoring beloved ancestors,
family, and friends.
To begin, the historical roots of this celebration date back to the pre-Hispanic
cultures of Meso-America of the indigenous people, especially the Nahua (Aztecs,
Mayans, Toltecas, Tlaxcaltec, Chichimec, Tecpanec) and others native to Mexico more
than 3,000 years ago. Life was seen as a dream. It was believed that only in dying, a
human being was truly awake. Death was not a mysterious and fearful presence but a
realistic recognizable character as much a part of life as life itself. When Christianity was
introduced in the 16th century, religion and its symbols became part of the altars we now
find in Mexico today. November 1st, All Saints Day, is when the spirits of the children,
called "los angelitos" (little angels), are expected to return. Traditionally, it is a time when
family members share memorable stories that would commemorate their lives together.
Secondly, there are many items that people do to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
On November 2, family members clean and perhaps paint the headstones, arrange flowers,
and lighting candles. Mexican families construct special home altars dedicated to the
spirits of their deceased loved ones. The altars range from simple to the very elaborate and
are usually filled with objects that provided pleasure to the departed person in life,
including favorite food and drink. Altars dedicated to the spirits of deceased children often
include toys, candy and other sweets. I think that building alters for the dead is a good
concept. They teach the younger generations about the past, as well as commemorate the
dead. No matter what kind of a person was, everyone leaves behind a legend. Some
books, for example, are biographies, praising and telling about a person in the past or
present. Like a book, the alters tell the history of a person. The alters tell a “story” of the
dead individual. Alters tell the age, their likes, and many other interesting facts about the
dead individual’s life. I think that these alters compensate the work of an earlier
generation. The altars or "ofrendas" as they are called, also usually contain objects made
from sugar or sugar sculpture known as "alfenique." These objects may be small animals,
such as lambs, miniature plates of food (enchiladas with mole), small coffins, often with
pop-up skeletons, and of course, the sugar skull or "calavera." The skulls are made by
pouring a mixture of boiling water, confectioner\'s sugar and lime into clay molds, which
have been previously soaked in water. The calaveras are decorated with paper foil for eyes
and a kind of colored icing for hair. Names can be added to the skull and Mexican children
often exchange named skulls with their friends. I think that the skeleton represents the
spirit still living after it has left it\'s flesh on this earth. The spirit of an individual lives on
forever. Ofrendas often include "papel picado" or Mexican cut-paper. Papel picado has a
long folk tradition in Mexico and the little town of San Salvador Huixcolotla, in the state
of Puebla, is known for its fine cut paper. Although papel picado is used as a decoration
for many festive occasions such as weddings and baptisms, papel picado with themes
relating to Day of the Dead is also very popular. The Mexican papel picado is similar to
origami. Although origami is folded, it too has spiritual meaning.
In conclusion, I think that Dias De Los Muertos is important for the family to
maintain good relationships with the dead for it is they who intercede and bring food
fortune to the living. It is a time to come to terms with our mortality and become aware of
cycle of life and death. The Day of the Dead is a day for honoring are beloved ones.