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The Day(s) of the Dead

by Dave Dewitt on October 16, 2009 · 0 comments

A Day of the Dead Plate

A Day of the Dead Plate

This uniquely Mexican and Central American holiday features celebrations of family and friends to honor relatives and close friends who have died.  The holiday occurs on November 1st and 2nd and is closely connected to the Catholic celebration All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2).  The Day(s) of the Dead traditions include visiting grave sites and building private altars to honor the deceased that include sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed.  The altars additionally include photos and memorabilia of the deceased.  The celebrations are not morose, but rather humorous as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

Although Americans view the dancing skeletons and celebration of death as macabre or related to Halloween, they are not.  El Día de Los Muertos is not frightening but rather reflective, and certainly not sad. The cavorting skeletons originated from imagery of the Mexican press artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, who died in 1913.  Posada inspired muralist Diego Rivera and others with caricatures of wealthy people and politicians who were depicted as skeletons.

By José Guadalupe Posada: "Gran Calavera Eléctrica," c. 1900

By José Guadalupe Posada: "Gran Calavera Eléctrica," c. 1900

Also on the altars are traditional liquors such as mescal, pulque, and atole, a corn drink.  A glass of water is also essential because after the journey from the heavens to earth, the souls of the departed are thirsty and tired.  They are also hungry, so the foods both offered and consumed by the celebrants are the favorite dishes of the departed, such as moles and tamales, foods that are made for special occasions because a lot of work is required to make them, showing devotion and respect for the dead ones.

For more information on the Day of the Dead, go here and here.
For Day of the Dead Recipes, go here and here.
For videos about the Day of the Dead, go here.

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