Day of the death
all saints day, and all souls day.
Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos [DEE-ah de lohs MwEHR-tohs], is a holiday celebrated on October 31st (children), November 1st (All Saints Day) and November 2nd (All Souls Day) in Mexico, and in some parts of Central and South America. Day of the Dead is also celebrated by many Mexican Americans in the United States. The Mexican American population is one of the fastest growing groups in the United States.
In Mexico, this festival is considered to be one of the most important holidays of the year. Although it is associated with the dead, the holiday is not portrayed or thought of as morbid or depressing, rather it is a joyous celebration reminding us to enjoy life while we can because death can catch us at any time. It is a time to celebrate and honor the lives of loved ones who have died. Death is not an end but rather a beginning to a new stage in life.
Day of the death
People celebrate Day of the Dead constructing and decorating ofrendas [OH-fren-dahs] or home altars, to honor loved ones who have died. Decorations may include copal incense, candles, gifts, bright flowers, papel picado [pah-PEHL pee-KAH-doh], pictures of saints, and photographs and offerings of the decease’s favorite food and drink. In rural areas of Mexico, tombs and gravestones in cemeteries are cleaned and freshly painted and on November 2nd, family members visit the gravesites of their loved ones. They decorate graves with flowers, and enjoy picnics consisting of favorite foods of the deceased. Most families will celebrate in the cemetery all night, picnicking, singing, laughing, and remembering their loved ones.
You can create your own Day of the Dead altar, or ofrenda, in your home to honor family members who have passed away. Every ofrenda is different, but here are some of the things you should include:
v photographs of the person to whom the altar is dedicated
v colorful decorations of cut paper to hang as banners, or to cover the altar (papel picado)
v candles (cirios) and incense
v dulces or sweets like sugar skulls, candies, fruits
v pan de muerto and other favorite foods ofthe departed soul.
v flowers -- paper or fresh --don’t forget to use cempasúchiles (marigolds) if you can find them
November 1st night and 2nd morning.
In rural areas of Mexico, tombs and gravestones in cemeteries are cleaned and freshly painted and on November 2nd, family members visit the gravesites of their loved ones. They decorate graves with flowers, and enjoy picnics consisting of favorite foods of the deceased. Most families will celebrate in the cemetery all night, picnicking, singing, laughing, and remembering their loved ones.
Paper Marigold Flowers Mexican Marigold flowers, known as cempasúchil [sem-pa-SOO-cheel], are often referred to as the Flower of the Dead. They are used extensively in alters for their pungent aroma. Throughout rural regions of Mexico, there will often be a trail of its petals from the main thoroughfare to the entrance of a home for the dead to follow home.
DecorationsThere are many special foods and decorations that are prepared especially during this time. Sweet breads called Pan de Muerto [PAHN DAY MWEHR-tohs] (bread of the dead)—a round bread decorated with shapes of skulls and crossbones—and Mona bread (doll bread)— shaped like a person lying with their arms folded across their chests—are baked. Calacas [kah-LAH-cahs] or skeletons made of papiermâché, clay, wood or paper wear modern dress and depict subjects from everyday life such as bicycle riders, brides and grooms, musicians, even pets. These can be placed on ofrendas to depict what the deceased used to enjoy doing. Sweet skulls made of sugar, called calaveras [kah-lah-VAY-rahs] are given as gifts. It is common to find names of the dead, or even the living, painted on the sugar skulls as a funny gift. The traditional flower of Day of the Dead is the marigold, which is spread on paths and used to decorate ofrendas and the cemetery. The pleasant aromas of foods, copalincense, and marigolds help attract and guide the souls home.
Death went and sat down one day,
sat down in a sandy place,
and ate lots of cold tortillas
just to try and gain some weight.
Roses are dead and violets are too
If you kiss me you will be too
George ate ice cream
He never stopped
He ate and ate and ate
His body froze off
Here comes the water
Down the slope
And my skull
Is getting wet