Día de los Muertos
The Day of The Dead
- Día de los Muertos is actually Días de los Muertos as the holiday is spread over two days. November 1 is Día de los Inocentes, honoring children who have died. Graves are decorated with white orchids and baby's breath. November 2 is Día de los Muertos, honoring adults, whose graves are decorated with bright orange marigolds. (National Geographic Education)
Día de los Muertos
History of Day of the Dead ~ Día de los Muertos
Day of the Dead is an interesting holiday celebrated in central and southern Mexico during the chilly days of November 1 & 2. Even though this coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul's & All Saint’s Day, the indigenous people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.
They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of the all deceased children angelitos are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.
Day of the Dead is a very expensive holiday for these self-sufficient, rural based, indigenous families. Many spend over two month's income to honor their dead relatives. They believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families. Ofrenda building keeps the family close.
On the afternoon of Nov. 2, the festivities are taken to the cemetery. People clean tombs, play cards, listen to the village band and reminisce about their loved ones. Tradition keeps the village close. Day of the Dead is becoming very popular in the U.S.~ perhaps because we don't have a way to celebrate and honor our dead, or maybe it's because of our fascination with it's mysticism. (Mexican Sugar Skull)
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In Mexico, the traditional family altar explodes with color during Day of the Dead when many special items are set out as offerings to the returning spirits. The entire family will work together in the decoration; much the same as Americans who decorate a Christmas tree together. Many families spend up to two month's earnings on the food & decorations for their ofrendas. Regional custom and tradition have a lot to do with what people put on their altars, but in Southern Mexico, several things are a must: an arch made of sugar cane, candles, copal incense, a glass of water for the weary traveling spirit, flowers ~ especially orange marigolds (cempasuchil) and red cocks combs ~ special foods like tamales and mole, skeleton decorations and sugar skulls.
The altar provides a feast for the visiting spirits. Favorite items of the person being honored are displayed on the altar. On November 1 ~ the day honoring children ~ altars are filled with everything in miniature: toys, chocolate, little glasses of milk & candies. On November 2 ~ the day honoring adult spirits ~ cigarettes, mezcal, bottles of soda, stacks of handmade tortillas, pan de muerto (a rich egg bread which is either decorated or braided), special turkey in mole sauce, nuts, tamales and special personal items of the muerto (like a hat or piece of jewelry) adorn the altar. An altar may honor more than one person and a cross made of marigold petals recognizes each person. Names of the honored guests are put on sugar skulls, oranges, apples and big loaves of bread. Little skeleton figurines and sugar skulls are used to decorate the altar and poke fun at death. (Mexican Sugar Skull)