A Mexican Twist to Halloween
Hello Her Culture readers! As you may know, the famous Halloween (Hallows’ Eve) that we all celebrate yearly and anticipate our calendars for October 31st is a day where you can dress up, ask for candy, watch scary movies, and believe in all those scary stories about Halloween.
Well, not many countries celebrate Halloween like we do; In fact, many have religious traditions and different views about our much-loved Halloween.
For example, there is a different yet beautiful version of Halloween that is celebrated in Mexico, called the Day of the Dead. This holiday festival is celebrated on November 2nd and focuses on the gathering of family and friends to remember all of their loved ones who have died. The traditions and activities that take place in celebration of the Day of the Dead are not universal, often varying from town to town.
Uniformly, however, there are several characteristics of the Day of the Dead. In this holiday tradition, people build private altars called ofrendas to honor the deceased. They use sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed to show their respect. People believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the food (ofrendas). They also visit graves with gifts and leave possessions of the deceased. People leave the dead children or the little angels (los angelitios) toys and trinkets as a welcoming gesture so the children can have fun even in their departure.
Also, people often leave pillows and blankets so the deceased can rest their heads after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, the people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives.
A popular symbol of the holiday is the skull (calavera), which celebrants represent with masks, calledcalacas (skeleton), and foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Sugar skulls are given as gifts to both the living and the dead. The most popular holiday food is called pan de muerto, which is sweet egg bread made in various shapes and sizes.
The Day of The Dead connects to the Christian triduum of Hallowmas, which includes Halloween, All Saint’s day, and All Soul’s Day. Día de los Muertos originates from the Aztec’s and their similar festival dedicated to the Goddess Mictecacihuatl.
The holiday is so important and culturally aware that it is a national holiday in Mexico. School children are usually all encouraged to participate in this holiday by making altars, writing short poems, or making masks.
Ultimately, Day of The Dead is a different type of Halloween holiday that is celebrated in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries. This festive holiday shows the diverse beliefs that we haven’t even heard of here in America. I sincerely hope you enjoy your holiday, and that you consider going to a local Day of The Dead festival to see and learn in your own eyes about a whole new Halloween.
Life and death are an emblematic symbol that causes admiration, fear and uncertainty to being human through history.