Mexico is synonymous with party and joy. The celebration of death has attracted the attention of the whole world, so much so that UNESCO named it the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2008. The main holidays are November 1 and 2 and today I would like you to delve into their origins and get to know the elements that make up this endearing Mexican festival.
Death is the only sure thing we all have in life. However, despite the pain that losing a loved one can cause, since pre-Hispanic times we have adopted this beautiful tradition as a stage in which we should rejoice.
Although the tradition has generated changes over time. Currently, celebrating the Day of the Dead in Mexico would not be the same without “La Catrina”, who at 118 years old continues to look elegant, starring in the festivities and more “alive” than ever in our traditions. Famous and very representative, so common that in this celebration you can see people with the characterization of a “Catrina” or “catrín”.
The tradition that materializes the Mexican belief of celebrating the Day of the Dead is also an altar as an offering. The extraordinary thing is that each of the elements that are incorporated into the altar contains a meaning, folklore, and a lot of work that takes days to carry out.
There are separate offerings in levels that can have from one to seven, which represent the levels that the soul must go through in order to reach its resting place, the most common is the two-level offering, which represents the division Between the sky and the earth.
The elements of the offering are:
Photographs of the deceased. As well as personal and favorite things of the deceased. It is very common to place portraits of loved ones who are no longer with us. It is said that he who is forgotten actually dies.
Incense or Copal and Cross of Ash Copal or incense are used to cleanse the place of “bad vibes” and evil spirits before loved ones return. The cross of ashes is used for the soul to reach the altar and to expiate its pending sins.
Salt. The salt is used so that the body of the deceased does not become corrupted on the round trip.
Candles. They represent fire, light, faith, and hope. It is the guide for the dead to find their way back to their old home.
Water. It is for the souls to quench their thirst after the long journey.
Tagetes erecta (Cempasuchil) flower. This orange flower is vintage, and fluffy in appearance. They are mainly used to decorate or create paths that guide the spirits of our dead.
Skulls In ancient times real skulls were used. Later they were replaced with skulls made with sugar, chocolate, or amaranth. Each skull represents a deceased.
Bread. It is round and decorated with little bones on top, the bread of the dead is the representation of the skeleton of the deceased. It also represents the human sacrifices that were made in the pre-Hispanic culture.
Confetti. It represents the air, in addition to giving a festive and cheerful touch to the altar.
Xoloitzcuintle (or toys). They cannot be missing in the altars dedicated to children, since they are a toy so that the souls of the little ones are happy to arrive at the banquet.
Food and drink. The deceased’s favorite dishes are cooked in honor of them, as well as their favorite drinks.
Death is not enunciated as an absence or as a lack, on the contrary, it is conceived as a new stage. The deceased returns, observes the altar, and perceives, smells, and tastes what the living prepare with love. He is not a distant being but a living presence. Life itself is told and represented on an altar. Death can be a constant rebirth in the infinite process of existing here or on another plane. It makes us reflect that those of us who offer an altar today will be invited to the party tomorrow. Let us always remember those who are not with respect, love, and nostalgia for everything we share, and the memories they leave us.