Day of The Dead | The Great Mexican Tradition
We are pretty sure that you heard the word ‘Halloween’ many times in your life as all the other people in the world, and its gained popularity mainly because of all the American movies and TV series that we watch in this time of the year (Halloween movies of course).
Day of The Dead
In Mexico we do not have ‘Halloween’ at all, we have a beautiful and great tradition called ‘Día de Los Muertos’ (Day of The Dead). Some of you might be wondering: What is this tradition about? How do you celebrate this tradition? Before I start talking of the elements of this celebration, I want to tell you that this Mexican tradition has been declared by the UNESCO as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.’
When is it Celebrated The Day of The Dead?
The ‘Día de Los Muertos’ starts on November 1st and finishes on the night of November 2nd, and it is celebrated in all the cities in Mexico. This event is not a sad day for Mexican people, it is a kind of a ‘party’ to celebrate the ones that are not in this world anymore; now I will explain the main characteristics of this celebration.
On this day, the most important and representative things are the ‘Offerings’ (or Ofrenda in Spanish); these offerings consist of making a kind of altar where you can find: pictures of the deceased person, traditional Mexican food, typical drinks, toys, personal objects that belonged to the deceased person, fruit, decorations, ‘skulls’ made of chocolate or sugar, candles, flowers, water, salt, bread and a many, many more.
But Why do we do These Offerings?
In Mexico it is said that on the night of the 1st and 2nd of November the spirits of the dead people come again to our world and visit the places where their friends/families live in order to meet and have a nice time with them (the 1st of November come the spirits of the kids, and the night of the 2nd of November come the spirits of the adult people).
Food and Drinks in The Ofrendas
Something really beautiful of this day is that many families in Mexico prepare the favorite dish of the person that died, for example: if my grandfather died 2 years ago and his favorite dish was ‘tacos’ and a good tequila to drink, it is 99.99% probable that the ‘offering’ of every ‘Día de muertos’ will include ‘tacos’ and a bottle of tequila, that makes me sure that my grandfather will enjoy one more time his favorite food and drink.
You can find these ‘offerings’ everywhere, in every school, in all the houses, on all the cemeteries, in all the churches, in all the malls… Everywhere! For example: on the main square in Mexico City each year we have a big exhibition of incredible offerings, which attracts thousands of tourists, national and foreign, to admire those incredible monuments, and the best thing is that this event is FREE!
Bread of The Dead
During this day you will find in all the bakery stores, supermarkets, big or small stores the traditional ‘Bread of The Dead’ (Pan de Muerto in Spanish); this bread is made just this one time of year and it is really delicious! The traditional form of this bread is a kind of semi-spherical bread with 4 strips on the top forming a cross, and all the bread is covered with sugar.
There are other types of this bread, depending in which State of Mexico you are located, for example you can find flavors like: Vanilla, orange, covered with chocolate, with ‘ajonjoli’ or with a skeleton figure on it. During this time you will eat so many pieces of this bread that you will have some extra kilos for sure.
A lot of Mexican families visit the cemeteries those days (just like in Poland) and they take candles, flowers and some decorations to the tombs of their relatives or friends; this day as in many other parts of the world, the cemeteries are crowded (with live and dead people, it’s a joke), they put candles on the tomb to indicate the way of the spirits.
Something extraordinary during this time of the year are the ‘literary skulls’ (calaveritas literarias in Spanish) and no! we are not referring to small human skulls. We could say that these ‘calaveritas’ are a way to make fun of the death, the tradition consists of writing rhymed verses making reference to situations or famous people (actors, politicians, singers), familiars or friends. In the ‘calaveritas’ we make reference to the ‘catrina’ or ‘the flaca’ those are synonyms from the death. Every year there are contests for this type of literature to know who is the best author of ‘calaveritas’ in Mexico.
Did You Like This Tradition?
I hope that you know a little bit more about this spectacular and incredible tradition of Mexico, I hope you can visit this country in that time of the year and feel the atmosphere of the ‘Día de Los Muertos’.
And one last question: Do you celebrate this day in your country? How do you celebrate it?