While many around the world celebrated Halloween on Wednesday (Oct 31), in Mexico and (by people of Mexican heritage throughout the world) a different but somewhat related festival takes place today: Día de los Muertos. (Day of the Dead)
In some parts of Mexico, children do incorporate the more American tradition of Halloween into Día de los Muertos and go about trick or treating. Some will ask for dulce o truco (candy or trick)… the literal translation of trick or treat is truco o trato. Another known expression is “¿me da para mi calaverita?” which roughly translates to “Would you give me something for my sugar skull?”
To find out more about the history and symbolism associated with the calaveras/calaveritas, click here.
In an earlier post we talked about syncretism and how, particularly in Mexico, Aztec traditions and practices were melded with Spanish (and Catholic) traditions and symbolism to be more appealing to the indigenous peoples. Día de los Muertos is another example of this.
In Aztec mythology, Mictēcacihuātl translates to “Lady of the Dead” and she is the ruling Queen the underworld and afterlife. She watches over the bones of the dead and presides over the ancient festivals of the dead, which were celebrated in early Summer. Modern festivities have evolved from Aztec traditions into the modern Día de Muertos, after fusing with Spanish traditions. The time of the celebration moved to Oct 31, Nov 1 and Nov 2 to coincide with the Western Christianity triduum of Hallowtide: All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. Mictēcacihuātl presides over the contemporary festival as well.
This festival was always meant to remember, cherish and pray for the souls of departed loved ones. It has gained significant cultural significance in Mexico. In the 1960s, educational policies were put in place to mark Día de los Muertos as a unifying national tradition based on indigenous traditions.
While there are many aspects to consider and various traditions to participate in, I’d like to share with you the preparations of one fellow blogger. At View From Casita Colibrí, Shannon shows off her beautiful Día de los Muertos ofrenda. You should go take a peak and discover the significance behind several of the items Shannon used, such as in this picture.