To the indigenous people of Mexico, death was considered the passage to a new life. The deceased were buried with many of their personal belongings, which they would need in the afterlife. Many times even their pets were sacrificed so they would accompany their masters on their long journey.
From pre Columbian times the Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos), has been celebrated in Mexico, and other Latin countries. This is a very special ritual. Since it is the day in which the living remember their departed relatives. Sometimes, when people of other cultures hear for the first time about the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they mistakenly think it must be: gruesome, terrifying, scary, ugly and sad. That is nothing further from the truth. Day of the Dead is a beautiful ritual in which Mexicans happily and lovingly remember their loved relatives that have died. Much like when we go to a graveyard to leave some lovely flowers on a tomb of a relative.
On November 1st and 2nd Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead. Towards the last days of October, the entire region prepares for the great fiesta of ‘El Días de Muertos.’ The square fills with stands that offer all types of colorful figures allusive to death, the most popular made of sugar.
Markets are filled with the cempasúchil flower. This orange marigold was the flower that the Aztecs used to remember their dead by. Its color represents the tones of earth and is used to guide the souls to their homes and altars.
Very early in October, all over the country, bakeries offer the delicious ‘Pan de Muerto’, Day of the Dead bread, made with flour, butter, sugar, eggs, orange peel, anise and yeast. The bread is adorned with strips of dough simulating bones and at the top, a small round piece of dough that symbolizes teardrops. These sweet breads are placed on the altars, and are also taken to the tombs in the graveyard.
Another traditional dish prepared for the celebration is the tasty ‘Calabaza en Tacha’, or Sweet Pumpkin, a dessert prepared with pumpkin, cinnamon, and dark sugar cones.
f November 1st, the ceremony called ‘Angelitos’(‘Little Angles’ in English) takes place in the cemetery. The little angels are the children that died and that could never experience the happiness and sorrows of adulthood.
The essence of this beautiful ritual is to lovingly and happily remember the dead relatives, their life, and in this way, give meaning and continuity to human existence.
The Day of the Dead is a grand celebration of life itself!