A typical day in Mexico is full of color, music and fantastic food. The Day of the Dead is no exception. It is a central celebration in Mexican culture. Far from being a Mexicanized version of Halloween, its roots go back almost 3000 years.
When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 1600s, they brought with them their Christian beliefs. Local beliefs were blended with Christian ones. The Aztecs had a month-long festival dedicated to the goddess Mictēcacihuātl, the lady of the dead. It was believed that upon dying, a person had to journey to the Land of the Dead. Once there, they had to travel through nine challenging levels before reaching their final resting place. Families would provide water, food and other tools to aid their loved one on the journey. This practice laid the foundation for contemporary customs of leaving ofrendas (offerings) on altars or graves. This traditional summer festival was shifted to later in the year to coincide with All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day. Celebrations begin on the evening of October 31 and extend to November 2.
The Day of the Dead Today
El Día de Los Muertos isn’t only celebrated in Mexico—many other Latin countries have their distinct ways of celebrating the deceased. Places with a high Latino population also join in the festivities. Today, celebrations involve candles, flowers, altars, food and music. It is believed that, on the Day of the Dead, a passageway opens between the world of the dead and the world of the living. Families welcome back their deceased relatives or loved ones for a short reunion before they return to the land of the dead. How do Mexicans welcome their relatives for these visits? By preparing altars decorated with colorful flowers, photographs of their departed loved ones and by laying out favorite food and drinks. Often, a family will go to the grave with their favorite food and drinks to offer to their relatives. Lighting candles symbolizes making the way clear. Special sweets such as the sweetbread Pan De Los Muertos, candied fruits, or intricately decorated sugar skulls are eaten. The sweetness balances the bitterness of death. The festivities are frequently lively, full of music, celebrating life to remind the dead of human joys.
Key Symbols Include Jewelry, Of Course
Due to its growing popularity in general culture, many are familiar with the symbols of the calavera (skull) and calacas (skeletons). Also popular are papel picado (pierced paper) colorful pieces of paper that are used decoratively and whose movement in the air is said to symbolize the movement of the spirits. It is also common to see Catrinas , skeletons dressed in a formal hat or dress or women dressed as Catrinas with their faces painted like skulls
Many women celebrate by wearing traditional, colorful dresses with floral garlands for their hair. Large earrings finish the look. Some of these large earrings may be intricately beaded or feathered. Others may be made of silver, since Mexico is the top silver-producing country in the world. This year, if you are inspired to honor the memory of a cherished loved one like your abuela, why not fix up her watch so you can carry her memory around with you again. Or, if you are feeling inspired, craft together a new piece of jewelry from some old pieces. Memories are always worth celebrating!
My Jewelry Repair is here to help you do just that. Contact us today to see how we can help.