Posted in Events

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is celebrated in Mexico and around the world between October 31, November 1 and November 2. This correspond with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. During this time families gather To pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting their graves.They also leave possessions of the deceased. The origins can traced back to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and say prayers to encourage visits by the souls. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed. During the three-day period families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas (offerings), which often include orange Mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) which are sometimes called Flor de Muerto (Flower of Dead). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead. Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or “the little angels”), and bottles of tequila, mezcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults.Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased’s favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto (“bread of dead”), sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. These are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the “spiritual essence” of the ofrendas food, so though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value.

Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes, these usually have the Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, scores of candles and an ofrenda and spend time around the altar, praying . In some locations celebrants wear shells on their clothing, so when they dance, the noise will wake up the dead; some will also dress up as the deceased. Government Offices and Public schools may also build altars with ofrendas, as this holiday is seen as important to the Mexican heritage. People also write poems, called calaveras (skulls), mocking epitaphs of friends, describing interesting habits and attitudes or funny anecdotes. Newspapers dedicate calaveras to public figures, with cartoons of skeletons in the style of the famous calaveras of José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican illustrator. Theatrical presentations ofDon Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla (1817–1893) are also traditional on this day. A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (in Spanish calavera), and people wear masks, called calacas (colloquial term for skeleton), foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead are given as gifts to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet eggbread Which is often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.José Guadalupe Posada created a famous print of a figure he called La Calavera Catrina (“The Elegant Skull”) as a parody of a Mexican upper-class female. Posada’s striking image of a costumed female with a skeleton face has become associated with the Day of the Dead, And Catrina figures are common.

Traditions and activities vary from place to place and depend on whether the deceased is an adult or a child, but they are all meant to celebrate the life of the deceased, in some places Families tidy and decorate graves of deceased loved ones and sometimes spend the night in the Graveyard and children in costumes roam the streets, knocking on people’s doors for a calaverita, a small gift of candies or money; they also ask passersby for it. This relatively recent custom is similar to that of Halloween’s trick-or-treating. Some people believe possessing Day of the Dead items can bring good luck. Many people get tattoos or have dolls of the dead to carry with them. They also clean their houses and prepare the favorite dishes of their deceased loved ones to place upon their altar or ofrenda. The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back as far as 2,500–3,000 years. In the pre-Hispanic era skulls were commonly kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.

The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead Occurred at the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl known as the “Lady of the Dead”, corresponding to the goddess Catrina. In many American communities with Mexican residents Day of the Dead celebrations are very similar to those held in Mexico. In some of these communities such as in Texas and Arizona, the celebrations tend to be mostly traditional. The All Souls Procession has been an annual Tucson event since 1990 and combines elements of traditional Day of the Dead celebrations with those of pagan harvest festivals. People wearing masks carry signs honoring the deadand an urn in which people can place slips of paper with prayers on them to be burned. Likewise, Old Town San Diego, California annually hosts a very traditional two-day celebration culminating in a candlelight procession to the historic El Campo Santo Cemetery.

In other communities interactions between Mexican traditions and American culture are resulting in celebrations in which Mexican traditions are being extended to make artistic or sometimes political statements. For example, in Los Angeles, California, the Self Help Graphics & Art Mexican-American cultural center presents an annual Day of the Dead celebration that includes both traditional and political elements, such as altars to honor the victims of the Iraq War highlighting the high casualty rate among Latino soldiers. An updated, intercultural version of the Day of the Dead is also evolving at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where, in a mixture of Mexican traditions and Hollywood hip, conventional altars are set up side-by-side with altars to Jayne Mansfield and Johnny Ramone. Colorful native dancers and music intermix with performance artists, while sly pranksters play on traditional themes.

Similar traditional and intercultural updating of Mexican celebrations are held in San Francisco and, Oakland Including a shop offering handcrafted Mexican gifts and a museum devoted to Day of the Dead artifacts, and the Fruitvale district in Oakland serves as the hub of the Dia de Los Muertos annual festivalS which feature traditional Aztec dancers, regional Mexican music, and other Mexican artisans. In Missoula, Montana skeletal celebrants on stilts, novelty bicycles, and skis parade through town. A festival also occurs annually at historic Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston And Guatemalan celebrations of the Day of the Dead are highlighted by the construction and flying of giant kite

in addition to the traditional visits to grave sites of ancestors. A big event also is the consumption of fiambre, which is made only for this day during the year.In Ecuador the Day of the Dead is observed to some extent by all parts of society, though it is especially important to the indigenousKichwa peoples, who make up an estimated quarter of the population. Indigena families gather together in the community cemetery with offerings of food for a day-long remembrance of their ancestors and lost loved ones. Ceremonial foods include colada morada, a spiced fruit porridge that derives its deep purple color from the Andean blackberry and purple maize. This is typically consumed with guagua de pan, a bread shaped like a swaddled infant, though variations include many pigs—the latter being traditional to the city of Loja. The bread, which is wheat flour-based today, but was made with masa in the pre-Columbian era, can be made savory with cheese inside or sweet with a filling of guava paste. These traditions have permeated into mainstream society, as well, where food establishments add both colada morada and gaugua de pan to their menus for the season. Many nonindigenous Ecuadorians partake in visiting the graves of the deceased, cleaning and bringing flowers, or preparing the traditional foods,too.

The Brazilian public holiday of Finados (Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 2. Similar to other Day of the Dead celebrations, people go to cemeteries and churches with flowers and candles, and offer prayers. The celebration is intended to be positive to celebrate those who are deceased.In Haiti voodoo traditions mix with Roman Catholic observances as, for example, loud drums and music are played at all-night celebrations at cemeteries to waken Baron Samedi, the Loa of the dead, and his mischievous family of offspring, the Gede. Dia de los ñatitas (“Day of the Skulls”) is a festival celebrated in La Paz, Bolivia, by the indigenous Andeans who traditionally shared a day with the bones of their ancestors on the third year after burial; however, only the skulls are used today. Traditionally, the skulls of family members are kept at home to watch over the family and protect them during the year. On November 9, the family crowns the skulls with fresh flowers, sometimes also dressing them in various garments, and making offerings of cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol, and various other items in thanks for the year’s protection. The skulls are also sometimes taken to the central cemetery in La Paz for a special Mass and blessing.

In the Philippines, the holiday is called All Saints Day (Todos los Santos), Undas (from Spanish andas, or possibly honra), or Araw ng mga Patay (Day of the Dead), and has more of a family-reunion atmosphere. Tombs are cleaned or repainted, candles are lit, and flowers are offered. Entire families camp in cemeteries and sometimes spend a night or two near their relatives’ tombs. It is considered a very important holiday by many Filipinos (after Christmas and Holy Week). Mexican-style Day of the Dead celebrations also occur in major cities in Australia, Fiji, Indonesia and Wellington, New Zealand, complete with altars celebrating the deceased with flowers and gifts. In many countries with a Roman Catholic heritage All Saints Day and All Souls Day have long been holidays in which people go to cemeteries with candles and flowers, and give presents to children, usually sweets and toys.

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