Also known as the Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos is a Mexican celebration of the deceased that takes place on midnight October 31 and lasts until November 2. During this time, according to NBC News, it is believed that the spirits of deceased family members are able to reunite with their living relatives.
With the upcoming holiday approaching, here are a few things you might not have known about Día de los Muertos.
It’s an ancient tradition that dates back to the time of the Aztecs.
Día de los Muertos is a tradition that dates back nearly 3,000 years and is now celebrated by various cultures around the world.
The holiday is not related to Halloween.
Although they occur at the same time, Día de los Muertos is not related to Halloween and it’s not meant to be a morbid celebration. Instead, this holiday is a joyous occasion, with families bringing offerings to the cemetery and building ofrendas in their homes to those they have lost.
Traditionally, there is no parade to celebrate the holiday.
Despite what the film “Spectre” suggests, there is traditionally no parade held in Mexico City dedicated to the Day of the Dead. Nevertheless, The Guardian reported that after the success of the film, the city held their first ever Día de los Muertos parade. This decision was controversial, with many bemoaning the spectacle of a holiday that is traditionally very intimate.
Día de los Muertos is a two-day celebration.
Celebrated over two days,November 1 is dedicated to “los innocentes,” or the day the souls of deceased children are said to visit their families. Meanwhile, November 2 is the day all adult souls are able to return to the living world.
Flowers play an important role in the tradition.
Flowers are a major part of Día de los Muertos celebrations, decorating altars and tombstones with bright colours and strong odours meant to guide the spirits to the ofrendas. One of the most popular flowers is the Cempasuchil, which is native to Mexico.
Ofrendas include symbols of the four elements.
Each ofrenda often includes symbols of the four elements. Pitchers of water, candles, food, and paper banners decorate ofrendas and each play an important role in guiding the spirit on their journey home.
The original celebration was more than two days.
Día de los Muertos originally occurred during the ninth month of the Aztec solar calendar and lasted a full month. Spanish conquistadors would eventually move the holiday to coincide with All Saints Day.
Monarch butterflies are a symbol of the holiday.
Día de los Muertos coincides at the same time as the monarch migration to Mexico for the winter. It is long believed that these butterflies are the returning spirits of deceased family members.
Sugar skulls are an important part of the holiday.
While skulls and skeletons are an important motif during this holiday, edible sugar skulls are so important that candy makers work four to six months to have enough for the occasion. These skulls can be eaten, but are meant as an offering for the returning spirits.
The most famous skeleton of the holiday was made as a satire.
Although the skeleton has since become synonymous with the holiday, La Calavera Catrina was created in 1910 by an artist satirizing Mexicans who adopted European customs and abandoned traditions.
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