Mexican Day of the Dead History

By: Mark Lopes

Mexican Day of the Dead is perhaps the oldest celebration you may have noticed. History reports it is there in the region almost 4,000 years ago. Some people even refer to it as “Days of the Dead” indicating a three-day celebration from October 31st to November 2nd. The first is Halloween, the second the All Saints Day and the third All Souls Day.
The underlying theme
There are certain Christian denominations which believe that every day should be a Christmas. They feel that the love of Christ is worth celebrating every day. For this reason, it is exhorted that the attitudes of kindness to the others and the pleasantness of life should be maintained all through the year. The same principles are being upheld during the Day of the Dead celebration. They believe that the deceased come back to the earth to offer counsel and comfort to their dear ones during the Day of the Dead festivities. There are also those who believe that this happens every day. But, November 1st and 2nd are the days specifically dedicated to them.
As mentioned above, Mexican Day of the Dead is one among the oldest celebrations in the history. Before the Spanish conquest, there were several cultures in the region. The Aztecs and the Mayans are just two among them. Even though different, these cultures shared one common characteristic, belief in the life after death. According to them, when a person dies, the soul is carried onto another life. This resulted in a situation where death gets celebrated rather than feared. For them, death is not an end, but a beginning on a new level.
The celebrations lasted two months, beginning in August in the Aztecs calendar. The festivities are being overseen by Mictecacihuatl, the lady of death. The festivities are arranged based on the belief that the deceased ancestors preferred to be celebrated rather than lamented.
The celebrations begin by honouring the children who are no more. The ceremonies honouring the adults follow suit.
The catholic influence
When the Spanish conquered the region, they wanted to eliminate this seemingly barbaric festival. They miserably failed in their attempts. However, they managed to shorten the duration of the celebration to two days. They also convinced the Natives to attend specific masses on the occasion. At present, Day of the Dead lasts just for two days, November 1st and 2nd.
There are numerous rituals the Mexicans perform during these celebrations. The most important among them are the following.
• Visiting graves: It is one among the most important among the ceremonies of the occasion. All the families visit the graves of their loved ones. The area is cleared and decorated with Marigold, the flower of the dead.
• Altar: This can be regarded as the specific feature of the occasion. People prepare altars in their homes to welcome the deceased. They even place their favourite foods here. It is believed that an alcoholic beverage is a must, to quench their thirst.

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This year Dia de los Muertos will be organized at Old Mission at Oceanside, California in October 26 from 10 am to 05 am.

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