Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos in spanish) is one of the most famous and beautiful traditions of Mexico, so much so that in 2003 was declared by UNESCO as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. We invite you to learn 15 fun facts about this festival you might not know!
1. The celebration of the Day of the Dead is divided into two parts: 1 November, which is All Saints Day and November 2, the Day of the Dead is celebrated. In the first all the saints who had an exemplary life and the dead children are celebrated, while Nov. 2 is now the general celebration as such in which it is customary to bring flowers to the graves of relatives and often spend a sleepless night waiting for their dead to find their way back to Earth.
2. The death cult is not new in Mesoamerican culture, there are records of rituals and celebrations of prehistoric people from over 3,000 years. There is no records of ethnicities such as the Mexica, Maya and Purepecha.
3. The Mexicas had advanced knowledge of astronomy and the Aztec calendar was crucial for holding rituals and festivities. Thus, the current preceding the Day of the Dead festival is celebrated during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar. Therefore, the celebration began in early August and extended by a month, chaired by Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of the dead.
4. Mictecacihuatl in Nahuatl “Lady Death” and in Aztec mythology Queen of Mictlan, the 9th. and final level of the underworld. According to Aztec traditions, in the past there were 13 heavens and 9 hells. When a person died he went to a different heaven depending on the things they had done in life. Mictecacihuatl subsequently became associated with the now traditional figure of the Catrina.
5. When the Spaniards arrived in America, they celebrated the dead with the Catholic feast they called the Day of All Saints, and eventually were mixing the two celebrations to give way to the Day of the Dead as we know it today.
6. The Mexican popular culture finds various means of expression to show their feelings by this tradition. Among the most popular are the famous literary skulls; they are rhymed verses situations that satirize popular and unpopular characters using the theme of death with a humorous intent. Each year this cultural activity is promoted through contests in which creativity and playfulness of the compositions is rewarded.
7. It is said that only in the Day of the Dead, the deceased are authorized from beyond the grave to visit their living relatives on Earth, and they receive them with a feast and offering which purpose is entertain them with the greatest attention and things they enjoyed in life.
8. The three levels in the altar of the dead day symbolize the three divine persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For its part, the cross that is almost always drawn on the ground with earth, reminds them of their faith, related to Ash Wednesday in which they tell the faithful “are dust and to dust you shall return.”
9. Marigold flowers (Cempasúchil flowers) with bright colors such as yellow and orange, are placed on the altars of dead and in the ground by drawing a path, symbolizing the sunlight that illuminates the path of the dead to Earth.
10. Each altar should represent the four elements: Water, placed in a gourd or crock; Earth, with various fruits; Fire, with candles; and Wind, which is represented through the shredded paper always representing different figures.
11. On the night, in every altar people will light candles. It is said that by being lit, altars prevent souls of straying from the path.
12. Some traditional meals are Day of the Dead sugar skulls, which bear the name of the deceased or living persons, in addition is also the traditional Pan de Muerto, a sweet bread sprinkled with sugar and ornaments in the shape of bones. The typical food of this celebrations and in the kitchens of Mexicans during this season also includes the Mole Poblano, Red and Green Pozole, Pumpkin, Tamales, among others.
13. The celebration of Day of the Dead is definitely a great tradition, which disseminates values of respect and coexistence, which was recognized in 2003 by UNESCO as Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
14. Mexico perceive death in a peculiar way. Mexicans use satire to mock her. One example is the popular “Catrina”: a skull dressed in different outfits as a sign of the presence of death in all the everyday.
15. “La Catrina”, created by the Mexican engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada and baptized by the painter Diego Rivera, introduces us to the death dressed in a fancy way and with a plumed hat.
Now that you know many curious facts about the Day of the Dead, share them with your friends and live this beautiful Mexican tradition!