Death is a natural part of life and it has been celebrated in Mexico for centuries in one of the most unique and colorful ways. During November 1st and November 2nd all corners of Mexico unite to honor the dead.
From the far north-western regions to the infamous Yucatan Peninsula, Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, celebrations can be found in a beautiful blend of color, fragrances, and food.
Day of the Dead has it origins in pre-Hispanic traditions. The celebrations conducted by the indigenous tribes were in honor of death and were used as a homecoming for the sprits of the loved ones that had passed.
Unlike the Europeans who believed death was simply the end of life, native tribes of the Americas thought of death as a passage to something else, simply a stage. The European invaders saw the practice of Day of the Dead as morbid and tried to eradicate this tradition among others but Day of the Dead celebrations survived and later became ingrained into the Catholicism practiced in both North and Central American.
Today Mexico, Central America and small regions of the United States honor Day of the Dead and it is a sight that one must see. The golden-yellow colors of marigolds petals grace alters that are adorned with flowers, incense, and candles while food and candy skulls are used as offerings.
Each color used in Day of the Dead décor represents something unique. Purple represents suffering, while white stands for hope. Incense is used for purification and cleansing purposes. Skulls and skeletons represent both death and birth and although the appearances of skeletal figures may conjure more of gloomy feel for outsiders, Day of the Dead celebrations are anything but morbid. For some, it is a celebration of life.
Although festivities for Day of the Dead occur in three different regions, it is predominately celebrated in Mexico, a perfect time to visit. Where else in the world could you experience such a unique and age-old tradition that celebrates life while mocking death.
*Day of the Dead skull artwork by Thaneeya McArdle