What do you get when you combine All Soul’s and All Saint’s Day practices with Prehispanic beliefs and the custom of maintaining ties with the dead? The Day of the Dead celebration. It is based on the idea that the spirits of the dead come to visit their families one day each year. Angelitos, or spirits of babies and children who have died, come to their family homes on October 31st at midnight to stay for the next 24 hours. Adult spirits visit for 24 hours beginning midnight on November 1.
I was under the impression that death was a morbid idea in most cultures. After speaking informally with several hispanic women I know about the view of death in their culture, it seems there are multiple perspectives on the dead. There is a side that considers the fate of the soul. Then there is the celebration of the lost relatives life. This is what Dia de los Muertos is all about.
Many families create altars in their homes as homage to the relative who has passed over.
Decorated with seasonal flowers and gourds as well as favorite foods, drinks and candies of that relative, an alter is the center of celebration in the home. An effigy of sorts is often fashioned to represent the dead. This is where the skull or full skeleton is seen, sometimes wearing clothing and hats the relative might have worn. All of this is done out of respect for that relative as her ghost makes her annual visit.
Large, colorful parades are held in Mexico and other Central American countries. Portable altars are carried through the streets among a sea of candles. Hours are put into creating the decorations and foods offered up to the dead.
Cemeteries even get decorated in celebration. The graves of relatives are lavishly decorated with flowers, candles, and offerings as song and dance are performed. I am simply amazed at the life put into these celebrations, pardon the pun.
Working on this article I’ve become obsessed with the sugar skull. Hundreds and even thousands of these are created each year for Dia de los Muertos. If you check YouTube you will easily find tutorials for creating the sugar skull look with make-up.
This year I plan to seek out some of these celebrations where I live in Southern New Mexico. I’ll update my post with any photos I’m able to get. This tradition is a really neat contrast to the typical western view of memorial services.
P.S. From sherrie: Thanks so much to this week’s sponsor! Kim Jensen is a “new-to-me” designer and I took a peek in her store. What fun, quirky, and eclectic elements and kits! I absolutely adore her store. Be sure and check her out by clicking on her banner up at the top of the post.