Friday, 4 November 2011

Day of the Dead

During the first days of November, Mexicans celebrate a yearly tradition called the 'Dia de los Muertos' or 'Day of the Dead'. This carnivalesque and colourful remembrance of departed souls is one of the oldest and universally familiar festivals.

In a belief system inherited from the Aztecs, Mexicans believe their dead are lurking in Mictlan, a kind of spiritual waiting room, and they can return to their homes at this time of year. Families thus begin preparations to help the spirits find their way home and to make them welcome, starting with an arch made of bright-yellow marigolds – a symbolic doorway from the underworld. An altar is erected and piled high with offerings to the invisible visitors: flowers, ribbons, coloured candles, tamales (steam-cooked cornmeal dough), fruit and corn. 

The first day, Día de Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels), is dedicated to dead children, and the toys they once loved are placed on the altar.Women will spend all day cooking the favourite food of the dead relative for the customary feast, in which friends and family gather to toast the ghostly visitors.


The event climaxes with a visit to the cemetery. There might be a funfair en route, with neon-lit rides and stands selling crucifix waffles and cooked cactus snacks. Families will devote a day to cleaning the graves, decorating them with candles and flores del muerto (flowers of the dead), having picnics and dancing to mariachi bands. Whichever way is celebrated, Day of the Dead is a time of reflection about the meaning of life and the mission that one needs to fulfill. 

Mexicans see death as a continuation of life, and instead of fearing it, embrace it. Death is transcendence, transformation and resurrection. During the celebration of Day of the Dead all those beliefs come together in a season that brings to life the memory of the loved ones.

For a taste of this alternative celebration, head down to the 'Day of the Dead Ball' tonight!
Hosted by Uncle Frank and Deidre of Funeral Land (as seen at Secret Garden Party), they promise you film screenings, Mexican finger food and Sugar Skull Face Painting!

All the details on the Facebook event: 


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