It is often said; citizens of Mexico are taught to embrace death. They celebrate it, make fun of it and even sleep with it. This may be the result of the history of the region; it was fraught with death and destruction. From the time of the Spanish conquest to the Great Revolution, unnatural death has been a part of life in Mexico. However, unlike modern world which always hurries to avoid death, Mexicans accept it. They make no attempt to hide away from this unavoidable end. For them, death is not the end, it is the transportation of one’s soul to another existence. They even believe in the return of spirits at a certain time in the year to visit their loved ones. All the festivities are arranged to invite them, to facilitate this homecoming.
Every single act in Day of the Dead celebration is a symbol. The following is a brief description of some of them.
- Skeleton: This is the image which prevails all through the occasion. People make bread made in the shape of a skeleton and decorate it with bones made of sugar.
- Altar: This is the place built to welcome the spirits of the deceased. It is decorated with the favorite food items, flowers, candles and trinkets. The food is kept intact even when they go for the procession in the evening of the first day of the celebration, November 1st.
- Pan de Muertos: This is known also as the bread of the dead. It is some sort of a bun made in the shape of a bone and decorated with sugar. The sugar even represents the soil in the graveyard.
- The sugar skulls: Skulls are made from sugar and decorated with colorful patterns. These are distributed among friends and family. The designs represent the vitality and the need of enjoying life.
- The seeds: These are the snacks being offered to the deceased. The seeds can be either of pumpkin or amaranth. It is believed that the ancient Mexicans used amaranth seeds in the place of sugar to prepare the skulls.
- Food: The favorite food items of the deceased are kept on the altar as offerings. The most important among them is Tamale, an item specific for the occasion.
- Alcohol: Bottles of the favorite alcoholic beverage of the deceased ancestors are used to toast, to celebrate their homecoming.
The Mexican marigold, the flower with a pungent odor capable of warding off pesticides you may come across was familiar to this people before centuries. This five-petal flower was known for its ability to fog the brain. History reports that ancient people used to sprinkle some kind of a powder made from this flower onto the face of a person who is about to be sacrificed. This they believed reduced the horror the victim experiences.
Marigold also plays a vital role in the festivities of Dia de los muertos. It is the most important among the flowers used to decorate the altar and the graves of the deceased. They believe that its smell is capable of guiding the spirits in their journey. You may come across regional variations in the Dia de los muertos festivities. But, the inherent theme always remains the same.
2014 The Day of The Dead event will be organized at Old Mission San Luis Rey at Oceanside, CA in October 26 from 10 am to 05 am. For more info about event, car show, vendors and altar builders and Catrina contest visit this website.
Contact Person: Maureen Sullivan
Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Address: 4050 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, CA 92057
Tel/Fax: (760) 757-3651