Dia de los Muertos- a different Halloween.
In all the Halloween madness as we know it, dominated by girls in enticing nurses-and-bunnies costumes, it would be difficult for an average American to try looking ahead of Rio Grande, to the neighboring Mexico, for a completely different approach to celebration in those days. Dia de los Muertos-or a Day of the Dead, is a three-day festivity taking place in Mexican and Mexican American cultures on the 31st of October and 1st and 2nd of November. It poses a striking, and impressive contrast to the way in which we celebrate Halloween, as it is a festivity in which the families honor the deaths of the loved ones in a sometimes conspicuous, and definitely extraordinary ways.
The first day of the celebration is the time in which children make altars called ofrendas, to invite the angelitos (the spirits of dead children). During the second day of the holiday, children and infants are being honored. Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”) is the time when the godparents prepare a dinner to honor the child’s death one year after the event. The table is being set with fruits, sweets and special bread of the dead. Candles, crosses and rosaries could not be missing , as they are intended to help to convince the Virgin Mary to pray for the children.
On November the 2nd, the proper Dia de los Muertos when the adults are honored, families visit cemeteries and gather around the graves of the relatives for a collective celebration. The tombs are being decorated with flowers, paper decorations and food, as it is believed that the dead eat the ”essence” of the food, which can be later consumed by the households. In many regions, later in the day, people organize dances with usually spooky costumes , skeletons being by far the most popular choice. It is also common to write a short poem in the memory of a friend, recalling their peculiarity and memorable anecdotes.
The holiday is dominated with a view of marigolds and its prevailing symbol-the skull (calavera) , visible on the masks and candies. The most famous one is La Catrina, created in 1912 by famous Mexican cartoon illustrator José Guadalupe Posada.
Although the origins of the holiday can be traced back to hundred of years ago to an Aztec festival praising goddess Mictecacihuatl, it is gaining a raising popularity in the United States and South America. Similar festivities are observed in Europe and even Asia.