Day of the dead in Mexico

One of the greatest traditions and celebrations in Mexico is the day of the dead. This tradition was born in pre-Hispanic times when the civilizations of this era celebrated certain rituals to honor their ancestor’s life. At that time it was very common to preserve skulls as trophies, which were shown during the rituals symbolizing death and reborn.

The celebration used to take place at the beginning of the month of august, the ninth month of the aztec solar calendar and lasted about a month, they worshiped the death where the gods who managed the destiny of the souls were Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacíhuatl both lords of the Mictlán “place of the dead” lead the festivities.

Later during the spanish conquest, spanish conquers were terrified by those practices and rituals, however, by trying to convert the native to catholicism, they changed the date of this celebration to november 1st and 2nd, so the rituals match the catholic festivities of all saints and all souls day. The rituals passed trough an aculturation process that mixed the prehispanic and european traditions until they become what we celebrate nowadays.

One of the most representative elements of this festivity are the altars, where mexicans use to put offerings for their deceased beloved ones. Traditionally those altars are made in different levels, in the one of seven levels, it is represented the path that the soul must follow to reach the spiritual resting. Nowadays the most common altars are the ones with two levels, each one represents heaven and earth, also it is very common the ones with three levels, each one representing heaven, earth and the underworld, some people also believe the three level ones, represent the Holy Trinity.

Altars are decorated with different objects, some traditionals and some personal effects from the deceased. Among the basic elements we can find:

-- Pricked paper. It gives a great colorful view with its images alluding the death.

-- Candles. Its a belief that the flame is the light, faith and hope that guides the dead in the world. Some families are used to fire a candle for each one of the deceased beloved ones.

-- Salt. It helps the body not to be corrupted in the way, its an element for purity.

-- Incense. It helps to keep away the evil spirits.

-- Cempasúchil flowers. Paths are created with them, by its color and smell, this flowers guide the souls to their home.

-- Bread of the dead. This represents the body of the dead.

-- Candy skulls. As already commented, in prehispanic tradition there were used real skulls, now it’s been replaced by sugar, chocolate or amaranto skulls. As the candles, there is one for each soul.

-- Water. To relief the thirst of the souls that had traveled for a long way.

-- Photographs. Its a way to make honor of the once alive body.

-- Food and beverage. The favorite dishes and beverage of the deceased, in a way to be thankful for the souls that visit their beloved ones and so they know they’re still loved and remembered.

Definitely the day of the dead celebration is a whole experience you must live. In Mexico there are many communities that still practice extremely old traditions  and preserve the originality of the dates. Let Mexcellence Travel guide you trhough this magical tradition.