Death is a fascinating part of life. So much of our history, literature and art contemplate the perplexing complication of it all. Ancient traditions have come down through the ages and mingled with religious belief to create commemorative events. One such festival is El Dia de los Muerto, or Day of the Dead.
Considered a public holiday in Mexico and Brazil, Day of the Dead is observed October 31-November 2. Day of the Dead originated from an Aztec harvest celebration. Goddess Mictecacihuatl, or the Lady of the Dead, presided over this harvest festival, which adapted to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Aspects of the original festival include welcoming the spirits of deceased children (angelitos) on October 31. This is when the children are allowed to come back from the dead to visit with their living parents. On November 2, the spirits of adults return to visit.
The belief is that the festivities reaffirm ties between the living and dead, solidifying their dependence on one another. Toys, trinkets and candy are left at the graves of the child spirits, while liquor, fruit and tortillas are left for the adults. The living bake “pan de muerto” or bread of the dead. They mold the dough into skull shapes and use icing to spell out the names of the deceased.
The Day of the Dead and other similar holidays around the world show how connected we all are to the spirits of our loved ones who have passed away. Built into our humanity is our respect and regard for all of our loved ones, both living and dead.
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