My family has never been very big on traditions, we celebrate the very common American holidays but can never stick to a routine. For example, one year for Thanksgiving we gathered as a family and ate turkey and the next year we spent Thanksgiving in DisneyWorld riding the tea cups! So, I decided I wanted to talk about a practice/tradition that I’ve learned about in school and has always interested me. This cultural practice is called Dia de los Muertos also known as Day of the Dead and it’s celebrated once a year starting on November 1st. This Latin American holiday is celebrated mostly in Mexico which is the type of traditions I will be talking about. The Mexican customs are formed by catholicism and indigenous Aztec rituals that were created centuries ago. The celebration is to remember the deceased and celebrate their lives instead of mourning them.
Photo by Laura Ortiz via Pinterest
I’ve known the basic knowledge about this particular holiday; every Spanish class I had we decorated sugar skulls and spoke about the symbolism etc. but I wanted a better understanding. I wanted to hear from someone who has perspective/insight and has been to this event in person. I went on a hunt and wound up finding a blogger who came from American traditions/holidays and moved to switch things up. The Blogger, Laura Lane, newly moved to San Carlos, Mexico has started her blogging journey as a student, learning the Mexican culture. She’s very consistent with her posts, majority of them are about her adventures and new findings in Mexico. Laura from what I’ve noticed is very passionate about her writing. I found myself with a lot of blogs to choose from with Dia de los Muertos being a popular tradition but it was very easy to pick Laura’s organized and concise writing, it drew me in and kept me engaged.
Photo by Probe around the Globe via Pinterest
Since I was looking in depth about this tradition I wanted to essentially fact check Lane’s writing and go to a trustworthy source. I went to the National Geographic‘s website and looked for their factual explanation of The Day of the Dead. Both sources have accurate information about the Latin American customs and small explanations about the origin along with the religion behind the tradition. I also liked how National Geographic set up their website with a slide show of pictures with mini descriptions. I also pulled a quote from their text about an assumption made of the passed loved ones, “Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life.” (National Geographic Paragraph 3) This quote was very enlightening, it helped me get a new perspective on why the holiday is celebrated that I really enjoy. I like thinking about my passed loved ones in a more joyful way, remembering the good and celebrating the amazing life they once lived.
Laura’s blog post was fun to read, I love hearing about others experiences. I admire her big move to study the culture and would love to one year experience the popular cultural tradition among practicers to see it celebrated first hand.
Some of my other favorite things about the traditions within the holiday are the festivities; the parades, music, altar decorating, sugar skulls, skeletons, the food and the list continues. I found one website that shows beginners how to make their own sugar skulls at home. It also has a nice description of what the skulls mean and symbolize to the celebrators. Their importance is among the biggest during The Day of the Dead as well as the most well known association with the holiday. The story tells that each skull is to remember and honor a family member or friends soul, remembering loved ones that past will grant them passage to celebrate with the living and strengthen their spirit.
I learned a few new things about Day of the Dead that I didn’t know about before writing this blog:
- Its tradition to decorate, not just altars at home but also the grave headstones. First they clean them then decorate with candles, marigold flowers and photos of the dead.
- The sugar skulls are not the only used skulls/skeletons during the long celebration. They also appear in the parades as dolls and masks! Lots of people paint their faces or dress up as skeletons, they’ll dance to music and/or tell stories about their past loved ones.
- I also learned that the Marigold flowers used in Dia de los Muertos are meant to help the traveling souls find their way back to their families because of the flowers bright orange/yellow color and strong unique smell.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey of learning about the Mexican customs of Dia de los Muertos, I certainly liked reading and watching my resources and hope you learnt something as well!
Dia De Los Muertos . https://www.pinterest.com/pin/703756181989078/. .
Dia De Los Muertos Altar. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/6685099437384213/.