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Day of the Dead in Mexico

Absolutely in every culture there is a day of remembrance of the dead. However, if we have this time for memories and sorrow, then Mexican Day of the Dead is one of the most spectacular and fun events in the country. The holiday, which dates back to the pre-Columbian era, survived the colonization and catholicization of the country, united the divided post-revolutionary Mexico and, thanks to James Bond, became a mega-popular event attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists to the country.

When and where does it go

Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico, as well as in neighboring Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Salvador in early November. Celebrate it on the first day of the month. This date is called "Day of the Angels" when they recall the deceased children. November 2, the holiday continues: now they remember all the deceased relatives.

In northern, more Americanized areas of the country, festivities begin on October 31 on Halloween. At this time, it is customary to treat children with sweets, and the ritual is called “tricky-tricky” (from the English “treat-or-trick”). True, unlike Halloween, where the main emotion is fear of otherworldly forces, during Mexican Day of the Dead reigns fun and joy.

In general, in Mexico, the holiday takes on a truly gigantic scale. Often the festival of the dead is accompanied by street festivities and parades. It is celebrated throughout the country, and in each region you can meet your own rituals. However, the most colorful events take place in the capital of the country - Mexico City. Here on the streets of the city they organize a huge carnival - the Katrina parade.

How did the Day of the Dead holiday come about and why is it so called

The tradition of the memory of the dead in South America is rooted in Native American culture. It appeared about 2500-3000 years ago. Local Mayan and Aztec tribes revered "death." To survive, they needed to hunt and kill animals, which means that according to their beliefs, death gave them life.

The Aztecs and Mayans considered deceased relatives to be conductors between this and the other world, therefore they were buried next to houses, and skulls decorated houses. The Indians also had a celebration in honor of the goddess Miktlansiuatl, the guardian of the other world. She was traditionally portrayed as a woman with a skull instead of a face. Later, the main symbol of the holiday came from here - a female skeleton named Katrina, dressed in a rich dress.

In the story of the Mexican Day of the Dead, it is surprising that the tradition has survived to the present day, even despite the colonization of South America and the conversion of Aboriginal people to Catholicism. All because the conquistadors arrived in every possible way encouraged the days of memory of the dead. Their only condition was - to do this not in August as before, but in November - on the Catholic Day of Remembrance of the departed.

True, until the beginning of the 20th century, Memorial Day of the Dead was almost never held in Mexico. Everything changed in the 1920s after the Mexican Revolution. Then a divided country had to somehow unite, create or revive national traditions, as well as perpetuate the memory of revolutionary heroes. The government decided to make Day of the Dead an official holiday and began to celebrate it magnificently, colorfully and on a large scale. Gradually, the festival became one of the most popular events in the country and began to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Features and traditions of the celebration of Dia de los Muertos

Mexicans believe that after death, their relatives and friends go to another world. The only time they can visit their family in our world is November 2. The meeting with the spirits of the departed should be pleasant, yet they have come a long way from the other world. So this is the time for fun and celebration!

First of all, on Memorial Day of the Dead in Mexico, it is customary to go to the cemetery: look after the grave, decorate it with flowers and light candles. They come here with the whole family, arrange picnics, concerts and performances on the spot. That is why, over Mexican cemeteries, on Day of the Dead, music is heard everywhere and laughter spreads.

However, a visit to the cemetery does not end. The souls of the departed come to the houses where they once lived. That is why Mexicans arrange colorful altars here with flowers, candles and photographs of the deceased. Often they are also installed in business centers and other public places. Water must be placed on the altars to water the spirits after a long journey, they put sweet bread and the beloved's favorite food. Also, the altars are decorated with garlands of paper flags “papel picado”.

In large cities, residents wear colorful costumes for the Day of the Dead and take to the streets. On the faces they add complex makeup in the form of a skull mask. As a rule, images are prepared throughout the year, and in color they are not inferior to the Venetian and Brazilian carnivals. The most famous procession on Memorial Day takes place in Mexico City and is called the Catherine Parade. Catherine is a figurine of a richly dressed woman with a head in the form of a skull and part-time the main symbol of the festival.

10 interesting facts about the holiday

1. Despite the thousand-year history, Mexican Day of the Dead is a fairly young holiday. For example, its main symbol, Katrina, appeared only at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1913, the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada created an engraving on which he depicted a lady of high society with a skull instead of a face. The painting was called “La Calavera Garbancera”, which means “elegant skeleton”. The image called for showing that after death all outfits would not be needed. Engraving became extremely popular, but had nothing to do with Memorial Day.

2. After the Mexican Revolution, the engraving with the skeleton in the women's dress was again remembered. This image has been widely used in the visual arts. Then he was called Katrina (La Catrina), which in Mexico at that time meant women who were too dressed up and boasting of their wealth. Katrina appeared in Diego Rivera’s painting “A Sunday Night Dream in Alameda Park”. Then she became a symbol of the Day of the Dead.

3. As for the Katrina parade, it began to take place in Mexico recently. The carnival owes its appearance to James Bond. In one of the episodes of the film “007: Spectrum”, which was released in 2015, James Bond appears at the Mexican carnival in honor of Day of the Dead. This event was completely invented by the scriptwriters, however, the Mexicans liked it so much that they began to hold a carnival every year!

4. The international community recognized the significance of the holiday: in 2003, UNESCO included the festival into the list of World Intangible Heritage Sites.

5. Skulls - the main symbol of the Day of the Dead in Mexico. This coloring is worn on the faces during carnivals and processions. Small candies in the shape of skulls are also made from sugar here and sold everywhere on the streets. In 2004, students at the National University even built a huge wall from such sugar figures, which was included in the Guinness Book of Records.

6. Orange marigolds - the main flowers on the Day of the Dead. According to Native American beliefs, they attract the souls of the dead. In ancient times, marigolds were cultivated in South America for religious purposes only. In Mexico, they are called only "flor de muerto", or the flowers of the dead.

7. Another symbol of Day of the Dead in Mexico is the sweet pan de muerto yeast bread (translated as “bread of the dead”). These buns are specially prepared for the holiday and left on the altars and graves.

8. Each Mexican region has its own tradition of celebration. For example, in the city of Oaxaca, the Las Calendas festival is held, when huge life-size puppets take to the streets, and women dressed in national costumes dance in squares with baskets filled with flowers.

9. The cutest tradition takes place in the town of Michoacan. Here, children participate in the Dance of the Little Old Men (La Danza de los Viejitos). Teenagers, grimaced as old people, slowly walk with a procession through the city and at one point begin to dance dashingly and fervently.

10. Well, the worst celebration of the Day of the Dead takes place in the town of Pomuch on the Yucatan Peninsula. Here, the dead are dug out of the graves, washed ashes and put it in small wooden caskets. Then these newly found urns with ashes are taken to special storage facilities. This tradition is associated with an acute shortage of land and the lack of a place for all the deceased in the cemetery.