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Latin America Travel & Tour Information

Mexico's Dead day (Val Murray)

A day for the dead, sounds interesting doesn?t it if not a little morbid? Actually to witness the day and to understand it you realise it is a day which probably should be celebrated world round. It is a day in which to remember those that no longer walk this earth and maybe to poke a little fun at something that is inevitable for us all. Why shouldn?t we take a light hearted look at death? It is something that is part of life and maybe should be more accepted as such. For many in Mexico, it is a day to celebrate with good humour, but also to take seriously; it is a day to welcome back family that has passed on. If I was coming back from the beyond for just for a couple of hours a year, I would want the red carpet rolled out.        

 

For those who honour the day, much preparation is to be done. Usually an alter is constructed in the family home with all the trimmings fit for spiritual visits. Items dear to the deceased adorn the alter along with flowers, photos, food, and I?ve even seen a bottle of tequila present. This acts as an enticement to the departed to rejoin the family for the day. Traditionally bright flower petals are spread from the alter to outside the premises which show the spirit the way home and in some instances incense is burned for the same reason. The dead must find their way from the underworld which is not a place like the Christian hell; it is a dark place but not an evil one. Arranged candles also help this transition from the dark place back to the land of the living.      

 

Vigils at cemeteries are common on the day. The family will decorate graves with marigolds and then sit around it picnicking and telling stories of the deceased. Bread of the dead (pan de los muertos) is typically baked and offered on the altars or gravesites as well as to visitors welcomed to help celebrate the return. Skulls made of sugar are given as gifts usually with the receivers name written on it. These are the ways the Mexicans play with the concept of death; it is not horrific to joke about the living as if they are dead. I remember walking through a hotel and seeing crosses put up around the gardens with people?s names on them. Thinking they must have been representing deceased relatives, I was taken back when I found out they were actually the names of the employees currently working. On television, obituaries are readout jokingly about celebrities who are very much alive. The day of the dead is not a dead boring day.      

 

When:       

 ? November 1st is a to remember deceased children      

 ? November 2nd is for the adults and most things take place on this day     

 

Where:       

 ? Although not an official holiday the whole country recognises the day. It is is more traditional in the south of the country. A very sacred time for the people of the state of Michoacan, and the township of Patzcuaro receives many visitors to witness the day.         

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