Mexico’s Day of the Dead offers a uniquely happy view on Death

Pic courtesy of NatGeo

Mexico’s Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico or by people of Mexican decent elsewhere in the world, and although it shares the same relative dates as Halloween, both are very different from each other.

Officially, Día de los Muertos falls on November 2nd, but tradition has seen it celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd, often with preparations (and some festivities) starting even earlier.

Halloween lost any religious or spiritual connotations long ago and now is more a time of festivity, with mostly kids dressing up and ingesting copious amounts of candy. Adults watch the kids, whilst having vodka shots and generally enjoying themselves.

fun-free-things-to-do-dia-de-los-muertos-weekend-with-la-kids

Día de los Muertos, on the other hand, is a blend of pre-Hispanic indigenous beliefs and Spanish Catholic beliefs, and is the time that relatives remember and pay their respects to loved ones who have passed on, and to dwell for a time on the fragility of life.

“It’s a party in the cemetery, a celebration,” says Benito De-la Rosa, a 24-year-old from Mexico City who has travelled to Oaxaca for the festivities. “In other countries this would be weird or disrespectful. But for us it is beautiful.”

That isn’t to say that it’s a sad time though, as alternatively, revellers treat it all with good humor and make it a time to break out the face paint and dress up, and enjoy the fact that their dead relatives have returned to eat, drink, and enjoy the company of their loved ones.

Altaars typically contain candles, marigolds and incense, which are used to guide the dead back home. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
Altars typically contain candles, marigolds and incense, which are used to guide the dead back home. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
Selfie time after having her face painted. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
Selfie time after having her face painted. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
A wall of crypts at the General Cemetery of Oaxaca. Families come and decorate them and spend time with the souls of dead relatives. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
A wall of crypts at the General Cemetery of Oaxaca. Families come and decorate them and spend time with the souls of dead relatives. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
People gather at the Comparsa, a carnival-like event beginning with a Day of the Dead theatre performance before moving on to a procession through the city. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
People gather at the Comparsa, a carnival-like event beginning with a Day of the Dead theatre performance before moving on to a procession through the city. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
Skeleton dolls called Caprinas are female representations of death. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
Skeleton dolls called Caprinas are female representations of death. Pic courtesy of Gabbi Campos/Al Jazeera
Pic courtesy of NatGeo
Although most strongly identified with Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Latin America and everywhere with a Latino population, including Los Angeles, California, above. Photograph by Laura Hasbun, MyShot
Pic courtesy of NatGeo
Dia de los Muertos has its origins in both Aztec tradition and Catholic observance of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Representations of calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls) are common. These women are celebrating in Oaxaca, Mexico. Photograph by Nelda Costner, MyShot
Pic courtesy of NatGeo
Although trick-or-treating has become more common on Dia de los Muertos, the holiday actually has nothing to do with Halloween, which is a Northern European tradition. Photograph by Michael Allen, MyShot
Pic courtesy of NatGeo
Part of Dia de los Muertos often involves cleaning and decorating the graves of loved ones. Adult graves are marked with orange marigolds, while white orchids are left at children’s graves. Photograph by Sisse Brimberg
Pic courtesy of NatGeo
Although the celebration is bittersweet and its symbols macabre, Dia de los Muertos usually maintains a happy atmosphere well into the evening. Family members recall departed loved ones, sharing humorous and endearing stories around graves (here in Oaxaca) or ofrendas. Photograph by Tom Dietrich, MyShot

Source: Al Jazeera, NatGeo

 

 

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