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Dia de Los Muertos

aka

Day of The

Dead

Christmas Lights

Written by

Luis Arellano 

November 2, 2018

We've all heard about the Day of the Dead, or seen the classic sugar skull paintings, but what does this celebration really represent?

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween. Though related, the two annual events contrast with each other very much in customs, rituals, and tone. Whereas Halloween is a dark night of fright and playful misbehavior, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an outburst of color and life-affirming elated joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the significance is to show love and respect for deceased family members.

The centerpiece of the celebration is a shrine constructed in private homes and cemeteries. These altars aren’t  for worshipping; rather, they’re meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living. In essence, they’re loaded with offerings such as water to quench thirst after the long journey, food, family photos, and a candle for each dead relative.

Day of the Dead is an extremely social holiday that spills into streets and public squares at all hours of the day and night. Dressing up as skeletons is part of the fun. People of all ages have their faces artfully painted to resemble skulls and don suits and fancy dresses. The colors of the skull and face paints have specific meanings, yellow represents sun and unity, white is used to depict the spirit, and purity, red represents life, or, more specifically, the blood of life,
purple represents the understandable mourning that is felt by those who lose loved ones, and pink signifies happiness.

You work up a mighty hunger and thirst traveling from the spirit world back to the realm of the living. At least that’s the traditional belief in Mexico. Some families place their dead loved one’s favorite meal on the altar. Other common offerings include bread of the dead, which is a typical sweet bread (pan dulce), often featuring anise seeds and decorated with bones and skulls made from dough. The bones might be arranged in a circle, as in the circle of life and tiny dough teardrops symbolize sorrow.

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