Sunday, December 17

The Day of The Dead

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The Day of the Dead, known as El Dia de Los Muertos, or All Soul’s Day is a holiday. The Day of The Dead is a holiday originated several thousand years ago in Mexico celebrated and is still recognized by people of Mexican heritage.

Over 500 years ago Spanish Conquistadors arrived in what is known now as Mexico. They witnessed the native peoples of the land engaging in a ritual that they presumed ridiculed the dead. This ritual celebration had been practiced by the native peoples for over 3,000 years. The Spaniards futilely tried to do away with the celebration.

The ritual has continued to be commemorated today in America as well as Mexico. In Mexico the holiday is a celebration in honor of relatives that are deceased. People wear wooden masks called calacas and dance in the honor of dead relatives. The calacas are then positioned on alters dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls are also created that bear the deceased relatives name on the forehead of the sugar skull mask. The sugar skulls are then eaten by a friend or relative.

When the Aztec’s originally celebrated the holiday, it was a month long holiday. They embraced death not fearing it. They believed death was simply a continuation of life, another step. The “step” to death was deemed an awakening. They accepted as true the deceased came back to visit during the celebrated month long holiday.

The Spaniards were a people that considered Catholicism a religion for the native people to embrace. They believed the end of life occurred at death and viewed the celebration as sacrilegious. They wanted the ritual gone because it didn’t conform to their catholic beliefs.

The ritual has lived on despite the conquistadors attempts. It has been moved to celebrate November 1st and 2nd. Prior to this, the celebration occurred the beginning of August and lasted the entire month.

The ritual celebration does vary in various parts of the world. In rural Mexico they decorate gravesites with candles, flowers, toys and bottles of tequila. They picnic at their relatives gravesites.

Here in America they celebrate inside their homes by building alters. Alters hold flowers, pictures of the deceased, incense and food.

This holiday may have changed slightly over the last 3,000 years, but it has and will continue to be celebrated.

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