November 1, the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), is a real fiesta in Mexico, a celebration which shocks, full of colors and cheerful motifs… which refer to death, but from a different perspective! The spirits of your ancestors are nothing to fear, just the opposite in fact, and the Day of the Dead is the occasion to meet with them in an atmosphere very similar to that of the Anglo-Saxon Halloween, and thus it is something that must be seen to be understood from this perspective. This tradition comes from the pre-Hispanic era, although nowadays it also incorporates elements of Catholicism and even modern touches.
According to tradition, during the Day of the Dead fiesta, the souls of the dead come out from the places where they went to die (such as Mictlan in the case of the indigenous peoples and Purgatory for the Catholics) and return to visit their loved ones on Earth.
To receive their dead, the people set up altars, on which they offer the dead the things they liked most: their favorite food, drinks, candy, toys and Mexican marigolds (cempasúchil) which, with their color and scent, help to guide the paths of the dead.
The offering should be laid out on October 31 and nobody can touch it, as the guests are the dead and they are the ones who initiate the feast; later, when they return to the underworld satisfied, the items from the offering are shared among family members and friends. Thus, the cemeteries become a real feast among family and friends.
The tradition of “pedir calaverita” has undergone changes due to the influence of Halloween. This practice originally referred to the children going from house to house carrying a skull, asking for sweets to feed it.
The fiesta dedicated to death and the humor of the Mexicans, being able to mock it, is reflected in the “Calaveras literarias” (“literary skulls”), irreverent poems written as epitaphs, portraying people as if they were dead.
In 2003, UNESCO declared the Day of the Dead a “masterpiece of the cultural heritage of humanity.”
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