Learn about the history and cultural traditions behind Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos celebrations.
In this episode I’ll share what I’ve learned from online research and a conversation with a friend about Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead celebrations, which will be taking place this week in Mexico. Join me in an inspirational look at this beautiful cultural perspective on death!
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I intended to record an interview about Dia de los Muertos with my friend Alex Sánchez whose family is from Guadalajara, Mexico and who currently lives in Barcelona. Due to technical difficulties we were unable to record our conversation but I did gather a lot of helpful information from him that corroborated the online research I had completed.
Here are some of the interesting facts I learned (listen to the recording to hear all of the details):
- Current Dia de los Muertos celebrations derive from Aztec traditions influenced by Catholicism. They are practiced most elaborately in the indigenous parts of Mexico (from Mexico City to the south.)
- The celebrations occur on November 1st (All Saints’ Day) and November 2nd (All Soul’s Day).
- Families build elaborate altars (ofrenda) in their homes with candles, marigolds, food, sugar skulls, clay skeletons, favorite items of the deceased, and even toys
- Plates of the deceased’s favorite foods are placed on the altar – eating those special foods is a big part of the celebration
- There is a belief that the “gates of heaven” open at midnight on October 31st (All Hallow’s Eve), allowing spirits to return to the land of the living to join in the celebration
- On November 2nd the celebration moves to the cemetery where gravesites and tombs are cleaned and decorated with flowers, candles and skulls. Music, food, dancing and storytelling are all part of the day.
- In Mexican culture death is considered a normal part of life–to be welcomed rather than dreaded. Skeletons and skulls are decorated with bright colors and smiles as they represent the joy of living in the face of death.
- In many cities altars are placed in public squares and there are community parties and parades to celebrate the occasion but these events are less traditional and have been commercialized to appeal to tourists.
I loved learning about Dia de los Muertos because the celebration matches my own beliefs: that life is to be celebrated and death reminds us to make the most of every day. Whatever traditions and celebrations you enjoy this week I hope you take a moment to appreciate life and acknowledge that it is precious because it is limited.
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Until next time …