Day of the Dead in Mexico: 4 facts of this magical celebration

October 27, 2022

Day of the Dead in Mexico: 4 facts of this magical celebration

Did you know that Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, was declared as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2003? More than a special day to remember the dead, in Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a celebration of death and tradition. If you want to know more about this amazing Mexican holiday, we share with you some things that you must learn to fully understand its value: 

A combination of tradition and religion

The cult of death isn’t new to the Mesoamerican culture. Vestiges have been found all around Mexico that reveal the celebrations that pre-Hispanic civilization did around their deceased. After the Spanish conquest, all of these indigenous traditions were combined with catholic costumes. The Day of the Dead is an example of this cultural fusion because it combines millennial rituals and religious elements. 

A visit from the deceased

Legend has it that only for this day (November 2), the dead are allowed to leave the beyond and go back to Earth and visit their living loved ones. This is why Mexican people set up a beautiful altar, so when the deceased visit their homes, they can be received with a wonderful offer.

The elements of the altar

Almost every household in Mexico sets up an altar on November 2. And although everyone’s is different, the tradition says that it has to be three floors tall. These are the elements that cannot be missing:
  • Cross: a lot of people put in the tallest part of the altar, but it is also customary to draw it with the ground on the floor.
  • Salt: it is believed that it’s necessary so that the dead's body isn’t corrupted. 
  • White tablecloth: this color represents purity.
  • A glass of water: for the souls that are thirsty from their long way home.
  • Veladora “candles”: a special type of candle that you find in Mexico. They are used as a guide that lights the way home for the dead.
  • Sugar skulls: called “calaveritas”, these sugar treats represent death, as in the Mesoamerican cultures.
  • Incense: a fragrance that cleans every place of bad spirits, so the soul can enter the house without danger.
  • Cempasúchil flowers: these vibrant yellow flowers are used to mark a path on the ground, so the dead can find their altars.
  • Pan de muerto: sweet bread that is baked only around this holiday.
  • Paper: it is called “papel picado” and it is used to give color and joy to the altar.
  • Photo: a photo of the deceased that you are honoring.
  • Favorite food: a way of pampering the dead is by cooking their favorite dishes. 
  • Favorite things and crafts: it is very common to include emblematic crafts from the region. Some like to put alebrijes, handmade crafts, and other pieces that were owned by the deceased. 

Literary creations

The whole point of this holiday is to not be afraid of death, and instead laugh about it. A cool tradition is the literary pieces called “calaveras”. They are like poems that rhyme and mock death. They were invented after Independence by writers that enjoyed criticizing the government and society. 
Did you know these facts about the Day of the Dead? How are you going to celebrate this second of November?

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