- origins of the day of the dead
- day of the dead vs. all souls day
- How is the day of the dead celebrated?
- films featuring the day of the dead
The day of the dead, is a Mexican holiday where families welcome the souls of their deceased relatives for a short gathering that includes food, drink and celebration. A mix of Mesoamerican ritual, European religion and Spanish culture, the holiday is celebrated every year from October 31 to November 2. While October 31 is Halloween, November 2 is All Souls’ Day or Day of the Dead. according to tradition, the gates of heaven open at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of children can reunite with their families for 24 hours. the spirits of adults can do the same on November 2.
origins of the day of the dead
The roots of the Day of the Dead, celebrated in contemporary Mexico and among those of Mexican heritage in the United States and around the world, go back some 3,000 years, to rituals honoring the dead in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The Aztecs and other Nahua peoples who lived in what is now central Mexico had a cyclical view of the universe and saw death as an integral and ever-present part of life.
When dying, it was believed that a person traveled to chicunamictlán, the land of the dead. only after overcoming nine challenging levels, a journey of several years, could the person’s soul finally reach mitlán, the final resting place. In Nahua rituals in honor of the dead, traditionally held in August, family members provided food, water, and tools to help the deceased on this difficult journey. this inspired the contemporary day of the dead practice in which people leave food or other offerings at the graves of loved ones, or place them on makeshift altars called Ofrendas in their homes.
read more: what are the origins of the day of the dead?
day of the dead vs. all souls day
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In ancient Europe, pagan celebrations of the dead also took place in the fall and included bonfires, dances and banquets. Some of these customs survived even after the rise of the Roman Catholic Church, which (unofficially) adopted them in its celebrations of two Catholic holidays, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which are celebrated on the first two days of November.
In medieval Spain, people brought wine and pan de ánimas (spiritual bread) to the graves of their loved ones on All Souls’ Day; they would also cover the graves with flowers and light candles to light the path of dead souls back to their homes on earth. In the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors brought such traditions with them to the New World, along with a darker view of death influenced by the devastation of the bubonic plague.
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How is the day of the dead celebrated?
The Day of the Dead is not, as is commonly thought, a Mexican version of Halloween, although the two festivities do share some traditions, including costumes and parades. On the day of the dead, it is believed that the border between the spirit world and the real world dissolves. During this brief period, the souls of the dead awaken and return to the world of the living to party, drink, dance, and play music with their loved ones. in turn, the living members of the family treat the deceased as honored guests at their celebrations and leave the deceased’s favorite foods and other offerings in the graves or in the ofrendas built in their homes. Ofrendas can be decorated with candles, bright marigolds called cempasúchil, and red rooster combs along with foods such as tortillas and fruit.
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The most prominent symbols related to the Day of the Dead are the Calacas (skeletons) and the Calaveras (skulls). In the early 20th century, printmaker and cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada incorporated skeletal figures into his art mocking politicians and commenting on revolutionary politics. His best-known work, the Calavera Catrina, or Elegant Skull, features a female skeleton adorned with makeup and dressed in elegant clothing. the 1910 print was intended as a statement about the adoption of European fashions by Mexicans over their own heritage and traditions. The Catrina skull was then adopted as one of the most recognizable icons of the Day of the Dead.
During contemporary Day of the Dead festivities, people often wear skull masks and eat sugar candies molded into the shape of skulls. the pan de ánimas of the rituals of the day of the dead in spain is reflected in the pan de muerto, the traditional baked sweet of the day of the dead celebrations today. Other foods and drinks associated with the holiday, but also consumed throughout the year, include spicy dark chocolate and the corn-based drink called atole. you can wish someone a happy day of the dead by saying “happy day of the dead”.
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films featuring the day of the dead
Traditionally, the Day of the Dead was celebrated mainly in the more rural indigenous areas of Mexico, but starting in the 1980s it began to spread to the cities. UNESCO reflected growing awareness of the holiday in 2008, when it added Mexico’s “indigenous festival dedicated to the dead” to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In recent years, the tradition has developed further due to its visibility in pop culture and its growing popularity in the United States, where more than 36 million people identified as being of full or partial Mexican descent from of 2016, according to the united states. census office.
Inspired by the 2015 James Bond movie Spectre, which featured a huge Day of the Dead parade, Mexico City held its first Day of the Dead parade in 2016. cities such as chicago, los angeles, san antonio and fort lauderdale held parades on the day of the dead. That November, Disney and Pixar released the animated blockbuster Coco, a $175 million homage to the Mexican tradition in which a child is transported to the land of the dead and encounters his long-lost ancestors.
Although the particular customs and scale of Day of the Dead celebrations continue to evolve, the heart of the holiday has remained the same for thousands of years. it is an occasion to remember and celebrate those who have left this world, while at the same time portraying death in a more positive light, as a natural part of the human experience.
Day of the Dead: A Brief History, Centro Cultural Hispano Nacionalgiardina, Carolyn, “’Coco’: How Pixar Brought Its ‘Day of the Dead’ Story to Life”, Hollywood Reporter, Dec 12, 2017dobrin, isabel, “day of the dead comes to life in the mexican diaspora”, npr, november 2, 2017scott, chris. “Day of the Dead Parade: Life Imitates Art,” CNN, Oct 28, 2016mictlantecuhtli, Encyclopedia of Ancient History