The Day of the Dead also known as Dia De Los Muertos is a festival celebrated annually in Mexico and other countries in Latin America. The festival celebrates the memory of people who have died, with colourful costumes, art, food and carnivals. The day of the Dead features parades where people dress up and paint their faces, and more traditional features including visiting cemeteries and creating shrines to loved ones who have passed away.
It may sound similar to Halloween, however, the Day of the Dead is about remembering loved ones who have passed away and welcome them back to the world for a celebration, not about being scared. The festival is there to help people celebrate the lives of people who have passed away rather than being scared of the afterlife.
When is the Day of the Dead?
The Day of the Dead is celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd. The festivities start on November 1st which is known as ‘Dia de Los Angelitos’ (Day of the little angels) this is when the spirits of all deceased children are believed to be reunited with their families for 24 hours. Families are known to create an altar for their children and to surround it with the child’s favourite snacks, sweets, toys and the names of the children are usually written on sugar skulls.
At midnight on the 2nd of November, the celebrations then shift to honour the lives of departed adults. The night is filled with love, laughter and fun memories of the deceased. The Ofrendas take on a more adult there with tequila, pan de Los Muertos, mezcal, pulque and jars of Atole. Families will also play games together and reminisce about their loved ones. People also dance in the village and bands play music in the towns.
The following and last day of the festival is the grand finale is the public celebration of La Dia de Los Muertos. In more current times people come together in the streets, dressed up with skeletons painted on their faces and have parades in the streets. People visit cemeteries on the last day as families go to decorate gravesites with Marigold flowers, gifts and sugar skulls with the name of the deceased on them. It is also customary to clean the gravestones and restore the colour too.
How Do People Celebrate The Day Of The Dead?
- Skulls are very commonly found during the Day of the Dead. The skulls are often drawn with a smile. The skulls take many forms on the day such as sweets, clay decorations and face painting.
- Marigolds are believed to be the pathway to guide the spirits home. The flower is bright and scented to attract departed souls as they return to their families. They are called the “Flour de Muerto” they symbolize beauty and fragility of life.
- The main tradition that holds the most meaning is the Ofrenda (offering). The offering is what the whole festival is about. It’s a collection of offerings dedicated to the person being honoured. A coloured Oilcloth will cover a table and on top of the table is a collection of photographs and personal items for the departed person. The lower portion of the altar is where offerings are placed, from Mexican cuisine to specific items that the person departed loved.
Celebration Not Somber
Many of us see death as a sad event which is completely understandable as it is a difficult time for someone’s life. Those who celebrate the Day of the Dead view death as a welcomed part of life. That is why you will see bright colours and skulls everywhere during the festival.
Mexicans are not the only country to celebrate the Day of the Dead, it is a widely celebrated holiday all over the world and gives people some peace of mind when it comes to the topic of death and the loss of a loved one.
South Wales Monuments
Another common way to deal with loss is to purchase a headstone to remember their loved one. It can aid in the healing process and provide extra support for you and your family during this hard time. The team at South Wales Monuments will work with you throughout the whole process until the product is perfect.
Headstones will usually be installed at the cemetery which will allow you to go and visit the area in your own time. This process can help people come to terms with the loss and provide families with a place of comfort to remember their loved one. If you would like more information on our headstones available or the process please don’t hesitate to contact us today on 02920 887 188.
Sarah Wirth is the content writer for South Wales Monuments and updates our blog regularly with helpful advice and new information.