Day of the Dead celebrations centre around the belief that, for this day, the souls of beloved departed can return. It is a belief that is steeped in tradition, history, religion and culture and is another example of the syncretism that bound new and old world values together. Although celebrations to honour souls of the departed can be traced back to Toltec times, it is believed that modern Día de los Muertos celebrations are linked to the, relatively, more recent Aztec Empire. The Aztecs worshipped Mictecacihuatl, Goddess of Death, and the month of August was devoted to celebrations for her. After colonisation, and the introduction of Christianity, these traditions were merged with the Catholic All Souls celebrations.
November 1 is generally referred to as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents” to remember children who have died) but also as Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”); November 2 is referred to as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos (“Day of the Dead” to celebrate the adults who have passed on). Dia de los Muertos is the collective term for the three days of celebrations, which begin on October 31 with the construction of the altars (ofrendas).
The ofrendas are perhaps the most vital part of the celebrations and can be as elaborate or as simple as the creators want them to be. However, there are a few items that should be included in every ofrenda. Here is a list of some of them…
Six Items in the Día de Muertos Ofrenda
|Made of sugar and water, they represent the people who have passed and who are receiving the offerings at the altar.
|Flor de muerto
|The brightly coloured petals and strong scent of these orange blooms help attract souls to the altar.
|The spaces in the perforated paper allow souls to travel through for their visit.
|Bread of the dead
|Pan de Muerto
|A soft and sweet bread designed to look like skulls and crossbones. It is placed alongside other favourite foodstuffs of the departed family members.
|It is often set out in the shape of a cross to help purify the soul and keep it from being corrupted.
|Photos of the deceased are placed on the altar to attract the souls of the departed to crossover for the day.
For more information on Día de Los Muertos celebrations and history, check out the following links:
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