As a young girl living in Texas, I couldn’t help but soak up Mexican culture, Spanish language lessons, and a mix of Tex-Mex foods to make your mouth water. A lot of that had to do with the border shared between Mexico and Texas, which naturally encouraged cultural melding of the two cultures. During one of our Spanish cultural lessons, our teacher held an after-school activity to learn about Día de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). It is a day to remember, honor, and celebrate the lives of loved ones who have past on.
While it can be easy for Americans to confuse Día de Los Muertos with Halloween, Día de Los Muertos is celebrated over a span of two days from November 1st and 2nd.
But one should not confuse Día de Los Muertos as a Mexican holiday for Halloween.
According to the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Mexico, Día de Los Muertos originated from Aztec culture.
Here’s a short excerpt from Lonely Planet’s website:
“Mexicans believe their dead are lurking in Mictlan, a kind of spiritual waiting room, and they can return to their homes at this time of year. Families thus begin preparations to help the spirits find their way home and to make them welcome, starting with an arch made of bright-yellow marigolds – a symbolic doorway from the underworld. An altar is erected and piled high with offerings to the invisible visitors: flowers, ribbons, coloured candles, tamales (steam-cooked cornmeal dough), fruit and corn. Two important additions are a container of water, because the spirits arrive thirsty after their journey, and pan de muertos (bread of the dead). The loaf is made with egg yolks, fruits and tequila or mezcal, and is adorned with, or shaped as, a symbol of death.”
However, post-colonialism in Mexico changed the dates of the holiday.
Originally celebrated in August, Christian conquistadors moved the “heathen” holiday to fit within Catholic holidays, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
When my boys and I went to see a movie, The Book of Life, I didn’t know anything about the plot line. Once we sat down and began watching the movie, it was a colorful depiction of storytelling, intermingled with a love triangle between three heroes and the legendary history of Día de Los Muertos. I was hooked, and so were my boys. The magic of the big screen told a beautiful, rich story of Mexico’s culture.
I really liked how the movie integrated José Guadalupe Posada, a famous satirical engraver and artist, into the story. Posada “used the occasion to satirize society and explore the theme of death as the ultimate leveller. In his famous calaveras, skeletal figures cheerfully engage[d] in everyday life, working, dancing, courting, drinking and riding horses into battle,” according to Lonely Planet.
If you haven’t seen Book of Life, I highly encourage you to go and see it with your kids. You will have plenty to talk about or even go research and learn more about Día de Los Muertos. That’s what I did because what I remembered as a child is not always as clear as relearning and understanding another person’s culture as an adult.
Decades ago I’ve visited Oxaca, Mexico, but if my family and I could travel to Mexico, I’d personally like to see Día de Los Muertos. I bet the environment in which one understands the beauty of Mexican culture would deepen as result of experiencing it in person.
And if you enjoy making DIY crafts related to Día de Los Muertos, check out these posts:
Fabulously Crafty Day of the Dead Necklace by Jennifer Perkins
100 Día de Los Muertos Projects, Patterns, and Inspriation by Crafty Chica (You’ll find a ton of craft projects here!)
To read personal perspectives of other fabulous bloggers/other articles, check out these posts:
From my hometown to yours,