|La Calavera Catrina|
We all know All Hallows’ Eve is a celebration that has all to do with death and honoring deceased relatives and, in this particular night, everyone has the opportunity to dress up as monsters, ghosts and skeletons asking for sweets. This is sure a funny way to exorcise the fact that we should never underestimate or forget the Grim Reaper is always chasing us. But what if I tell you there’s another celebration that is similar to Halloween but, at the same time, has nothing to do with it. In fact, El Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday, now also spread all over the world, that can be called “The Hymn to Life”. You celebrate death learning about the importance of life.
El Día de los Muertos, celebrated on November 2nd, is an opportunity for Mexican children to learn that life is brief and there’s a life circle everyone must face sooner or later. The important meaning of this day is “Don’t fear Death, appreciate every moment you have and live life to the fullest”. Just with these deeper life lessons, there’s no denying El Día de los Muertos cannot be compared with Halloween. Nowadays the latter is more of a commercial holiday for children than a celebration.
Instead El Día de los Muertos has ancient origins and is traditionally celebrated by everyone. The first example of this celebration can be found in pre- Colombian cultures. Rituals celebrating passed away ancestors are dated back 2,500–3,000 years. The festival that was the ancient version of El Día de los Muertos fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for the entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the "Lady of the Dead". The representation of the goddess was recently replaced with La Calavera Catrina ("The Elegant Skull"), a famous print created by José Guadalupe Posada as a parody of a Mexican upper-class female. The shocking image of a costumed female with a skeleton face is now one of the most popular figures of the celebration.
El Día de los Muertos allows the dead to live again. During this time it is believed that the deceased return to their earthly homes to visit and rejoice with their loved ones. Author Frances Ann Day in his book “Latina and Latino Voices in Literature: Lives and Works” summarizes all the Mexican celebrations, saying:
“On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.”
This is exactly what happens during these days. Setting up altars with offerings, cleaning and decorating graves, holding all-night graveside vigils and telling funny and touching stories about the deceased is the perfect way to remember the loved ones who unfortunately but inevitably left this world.
|During El Día de los Muertos, the lights of graves brighten the night sky|
This colorful holiday should be celebrated everywhere to make people understand that death is not the end, it’s simply a new start. And now I would like to cite a quote of Albus Dumbledore that fits perfectly:
Do not pity the dead, pity the living. Above all, pity those who live without love.
Personally the main reason I love this period is because November 1st is my birthday. So, between pumpkins and skeletons, I’ll blow out some candles. Have a good life :)