Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Viva el Dia de los Muertos!
















So how did this holiday come to be?

According to ancient Aztec culture, the soul of the departed lived after their death.

After 40 days of them dying they would return to earth one day each year.

The dead it was thought would be returning to be among the living, the loved ones that they had left behind.

They found their way back home by the aroma of their favorite foods, guided by the lights of the candles and the sight of their favorite drink.

The pre-Hispanic culture sees life and death in the same reality that anything with life was engaged in a perpetual cycle of being born and dying... of the newly created and an eventual death.

The Aztecs saw battle and dying as the ultimate goodbye, for a true warrior's aspiration was to experience a glorious death.

The most honored of all deaths was called (la muerte florida) or the flowering death.

To be able to die in combat was the ultimate for the Aztec warrior.

The Aztecs honored their dead with elaborate fiestas and rituals.

They coincided with their harvest calendar which is still used today.

Muertos (or images of such) are found in folk art, paintings and even house wares all year round.

You'll see funny dancing skeletons (calacas) adorning a lot of Mexican homes.

From the biggest cities to the smallest villages you'll find these popular figures.

The holiday is a lively celebration and there is no room for crying or painful sentimentality.

After all one is looking forward to welcoming a cordial visit from their beloved deceased relatives.

The celebration started about two weeks ago.

There is a joyful and colorful atmosphere at the main market and at towns and cities throughout Mexico.

The (cempasuchitl) or marigolds which are bright yellow flowers are found for sale everywhere.

The Aztecs also used (papel picado) to print messages and decorate for their religious rituals and thus the tradition is still carried out today.

Curtains of thin sheeted banners with cut outs of skeletons, flowers, birds and coffins can be seen at homes and businesses throughout Mexico.

Favorite foods include atole, pan dulce de muerto, enchiladas, mole chicken and tamales.

At noon on November 1st the church bells toll and masses are held for the arrival of the traveling spirits.

 At sundown processions of families are seen headed to the cemeteries.

Carrying bunches of marigolds, over flowing picnic baskets and battery powered boom boxes for the soul purpose of entertaining the visiting dead souls.

You'll see small figures wrapped in (rebosos) or shawls sitting quietly at the grave site all night.

Musicians or (Mariachis) can be heard playing the favorite songs of the departed.

Accompanied by the sometimes off key renditions of the sometimes inebriated relatives.

The Day of the Dead represents a mixture of Christian devotion to the pre-Hispanic traditions and beliefs.

They are embodied in the traditional alter offerings and are a long honored Mexican tradition.

The all night vigil takes place after the families have spent the week cleaning up their loved ones grave site.

Carefully repainting the gravestones and decorating it with bright yellow colorful flowers.

Alot of families especially the more religious ones, will pray the rosary out loud before beginning their lively celebrations.

Today on November 2nd it is believed that the soul of the deceased adults return to their families.

Coming to spend time with them, enjoy their company, their favorite foods and drinks and of course the music.

Although this tradition varies from town to town, and city to city candles, flowers and food are an important part of welcoming back the souls, its universal.

Also universal is the feeling of sadness and loss; coupled with the joy at the opportunity to remember if at least in spirit, those who have passed on.

The celebration of the past two days comes to an end this evening.

But the memories linger in the souls of the dead who can return to the after life, knowing that they have not been forgotten.

Viva el Dia de los Muertos!