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Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Transcript of Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Dia de los Muertos is not to worship ones ancestors.
Dia de los Muertos is not a morbid celebration.
"The Mexican flatters and woos death, he sings to her, dances with her, lifts his glass to her, he laughs at her. Finally, he challenges her, and in the challenging, death loses her power to intimidate him. Once he knows death intimately, death is no longer wrapped in a cloak of mystery or causes him to fear the darkness."
Dia de los Muertos
(Day of the Dead)
Common Misconceptions about
Dia de los Muertos
This tradition centers around the idea of an afterlife as well as paying honor and respects to those who have passed away from this world. Those who have left this world are not forgotten and will live forever in the hearts of the people whom they loved and were loved by, such as family.
Aztec Celebration of Dia de los Muertos
Like the Catholic religion, that the Spaniards had brought with them, the Aztecs believed in a life after death. Death was only the beginning of the next life in Mictlán (Land of the Dead).
"Life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake."
Once a year, The Aztec people would hold a celebration during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, Miccailhuitontli, month of the dead. It was over seen by the Aztec deity of the dead, the godess Mictecacihuatl, who was said to have died at birth.
During this month both children and adults, who had passed, were remembered and honored.
"According to Diego Duran, a 16th century Spanish priest, the Aztecs would bring offerings of food to altars in honor of the dead. They would also place small clay images that were supposed to represent the deceased on these same altars."
Spanish Conquest and Transformation of Dia de los Muertos
With the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, it was believed that the Aztec people were 'savage' heathens. Human sacrifice and lack of european sophistication were enough for this view to become a reality for the conquistadors. As a result of this view of the Aztecs, Spanish priests made an attempt to convert the natives to Catholicism and extinguish the practices of the native people.
However, this was done in vain as the rituals and spirit of the people refused to be extinguished. Dia de los muertos merged with Catholic theology and the month long celebration was condensed two days, the holy days of all saints and souls day. The practice of Dia de los Muertos nearly paralleled these two holy celebrations so much that they were tolerated and have survived through out the centuries.
Dia de los Muertos is a celebration that remembers and honors those loved ones who have passed from this life to the next, and is celebrated all throughout Mexico, several other Latin American countries and the United States to this day.
Dia de los Muertos today
Just as the Aztecs believed, those who celebrate this special holiday believe that the souls of their departed loved ones return on these days to visit their families.
November 1 is known as Dia de los Angelitos. This day is when the spirits of children return. November 2 is Dia de los difuntos or Dia de los muertos. This is when all adult spirits visit.
Preparations for this event begin at least a week in advance, or can begin the day of October the 31st
Preparations and the Altar
A modern day Altar at the Hollywood cemetery in Los Angeles
Cempasúchil, cempoalli ("20") and xochitl ("flower"), is very important while preparing the Altar. Long trails of cempasúchil petals are placed on the ground leading to the altars. It is believed that the spirits of the departed with follow the bright colors of the flower to the Altars.
Pan de muertos is made during this time to be placed on the Altars as on offering. Favorite foods, drinks, and items of the departed person are placed on the altars as well as photos of the family member.
Papel picado, calavera dulces, and religious images are also placed on the altar. When creating an altar for the person(s), there is much room for creativity and uniqueness. There is no one way to put together an altar.
Altars may be private and in the home or placed in school, plazas, and in other public places.