El Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), is a traditional holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, and is acknowledged in other cultures throughout the world on November 1st and 2nd. The holiday focuses on the gathering of family and friends to remember and honor beloved ancestors, family members, and friends who have died. It is an ancient and enduring ritual where the living commune with the dead – a mystical night when the veil is lifted between the two realms and they may share a day together. In celebration, beautiful altars are created in homes and public spaces featuring marigold flowers, sugar skulls, favorite foods, photos, drinks (most notably liquor), and personal significant mementos of the deceased.
The sacred “Flower of the Dead” Marigold is an important floral feature on colorful altars built by families to celebrate the unique details of their beloved deceased family member’s life. It is believed that spirits of the dead visit the living during the celebration. The sacred marigold flowers guide spirits of the deceased to the colorful altars by following the flowers’ fragrant scent. On the eve of El Día de Los Muertos families often gather in cemeteries around altars of their loved ones. Music bands play music, vendors sell merchandise, and all at once the cemeteries become a place of community, reverence and celebration.
The historical roots of El Día de Los Muertos date back to native Mexico for more than 3,000 years. Throughout each period in Mexican culture, death seems to hold no terror. In Mexican art, legends, and religion, death has not been a mysterious and fearful presence but a realistic recognizable character, as much a part of life as life itself.
El Día de Los Muertos expresses this perspective: It is not a mournful commemoration but a happy and colorful celebration where death takes on a lively, friendly expression, and is not frightening or strange. There is no place for sorrow or weeping for this could be interpreted as discourteous to the spirits of deceased family members of whom are cheerfully visiting with the living. In Mexican culture particularly, it is believed that life and death are part of the same linear process. Birth leads into life, and life leads to death. Join the ends of the process and the cycle of life is created.
In present-day Mexico, El Día de Los Muertos is a rapidly changing tradition. Each November the festivities and artisanal work attract a myriad of tourists and visitors to Mexico, and with each year the holiday is becoming more commercialized. Celebrations in general are now more festive and much more like a holiday rather than exclusively a holy day. Once observed largely by people of Mexican heritage, Día de los Muertos is quickly flourishing in the United States throughout a mainstream audience. From museums to dolls, to the Academy Award winning animated feature by Disney Pixar Productions, Día de los Muertos has expanded far beyond the Latino community. Many cities across the United States have seen observances swell as people of other cultures are celebrating the event for the very first time, along with having a newfound appreciation for this centuries old celebration.
Día de los Muertos