In Mexico?s ancient civilizations, death held a significant place. Not as the end of life, but as a continuation of it. To the Aztecs and other pre-Hispanic people, life was a dream and only in dead did they become truly awake. Duality was honored as something dynamic, death not separated from pain or celebration, wealth not from poverty, and the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, the beginning of August, meant a monthlong celebration of the dead, overseen by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead.
After the Aztecs were conquered by Spain and Catholicism became the dominant religion, the customs became intertwined with the Christian commemoration of All Saints' Day on November 1st, and All Souls Day on November 2nd. The Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos, is a festival celebrating the continuum of life and death, a reunion of dead relatives coming back home in spirit form, to eat, drink and be merry. Just like they did when they were living. In most regions of Mexico, the gates of heaven open on October 31 at midnight, with family and friends honoring the visiting souls of children and infants on November 1st, referred to as ?Day of the Innocents?. Family and friends adorn their graves with toys and colorful balloons, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2nd, ?Day of the Dead?, with displays of the departed?s favorite food and drinks and marigold flowers and candles placed on their graves to guide their spirits to their loved ones.
Next to the grave sites people have picnics and eat the the elaborately decorated pan de muerto, a rich, large coffee cake decorated with meringues to look like bones, skull shaped sweets, marzipan death figures. Final touches are provided by papier marche skeletons and skulls. At home the spirits are welcomed with self-build altars decorated with flowers, food and pictures, their favorite music is played, their favorite food eaten.
Day of the Dead, is a birthday of eternity, a happy time, a celebration of memories, because to be alive in those, is not to die.
November 02, 2011
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