Here in America, we celebrate Halloween. In Mexico, we celebrate Día De Los Muertos (Day of the dead). Dia de Los Muertos is actually not associated with Halloween at all, it is our way of remembering loved ones that have passed away. In America, we mourn and have services to say goodbye to loved ones that have passed. In Mexico, it is a time of remembrance and celebration of loved ones coming back and visiting us from passing. According to the day of the dead holiday, “Dia de Los Muertos came to be from a mixture of the Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuall (Lady of the dead), and it is said that she watches over the bones of the dead and swallows the stars during the day.” This mixture of traditions created a unique holiday for Mexicans to celebrate over 2 days every year.
There are four major traditions in which dia de Los Muertos are involved. The first is the day of the dead festival which start at the end of October. It is the beginning of the celebrations with dancing and music as you see all of these dedications first being placed on the gravesites. Dia de Los Angelitos (spirits of the children) or little angels is the second tradition in which the holiday starts at midnight on November 1st, in which the spirits of the past children are reunited with their familia a day before the adults. It is said that the children had quicker feet and would be excited to visit their loved ones. The third is celebrating dia de Los Difuntos (spirits of adults) in which all of the loved ones are now with their familia enjoying their dedications. The last tradition that is celebrated is Dia de Los Muertos which symbolizes all of the spirits that have returned home.
Ofrendas (Alters) are made out to the loved one that they are celebrating. These ofrendas are decorated with elements for the dead. Pictures of those who have passed away were placed on these ofrendas so that they knew that they were remembered. A candle is one of the first elements on the ofrenda, it is believed that the light of the candles would guide their souls to the altars. Papel Picado were placed around the village and on the gravesites symbolizing a place between life and death. They are very colorful and bright, and each color means something different. Another way to honor them was by making sugar skulls, painted with many colors, and decorated with feathers and gems with the loved ones’ names written on them. This is just another symbol of the ones who have passed. Marigolds are the flowers that represent the dead. It is believed that these flowers were placed to line a path to guide them to these ofrendas. Incense was lit so that it would keep the bad spirits away and only allow familia who cherished. To honor their memory, their favorite food would be placed on the ofrendas so they could taste their favorite meals again, for children they would place their favorite snacks or candies. Water would also be placed to symbolize the support of life. All of these elements were presented just to honor the spirits of familia.
This is a beautiful tradition of not being afraid of death and celebrating it instead. In Mexico, we don’t just say goodbye to the ones we’ve lost, we welcome them back and reminisce about the time we had with them. It is not a sad event, it’s supposed to bring comfort knowing that our memories are keeping their spirits with us. The multicultural center has set up an ofrenda to celebrate this holiday with the student body. You are welcome to set up a picture and remember those who have passed away.