Today, November 1, is the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos)—a Mexican holiday that can be traced back to its origins hundreds of years ago, to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, who was know to her devotees as “The Lady of the Dead.”
Rituals surrounding the deaths of ancestors had been practiced by Mexico’s indigenous cultures for perhaps as long as 2,500-‐3,000 years. In the pre-‐Hispanic era, human skulls were kept as trophies, and as reminders of death and rebirth.
The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead originally fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, roughly at the beginning of our August, and it was celebrated for an entire month. Imagine an entire month dedicated to death and our dearly departed?
The Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico and, more recently, around the world in other cultures. It focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember dearly departed loved ones. It is a celebration to try to encourage the souls of the dead to visit the living and it is connected to the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2), with November 1 reserved for honoring children and infants. November 2 is generally set aside to remember deceased adults.
Participants create elaborate altars to honor the dead with sugar skulls and marigolds. The favorite foods and drinks of the departed ones are also included on the altar, along with all sorts of other memorabilia, which is sometimes also taken to the burial places of the dearly departed. Pathways of marigold petals are used to light the way for the dead . . . from the graveyard to the houses where family and friends are gathered to receive them, and they also help the deceased find their way back to their graves after the celebrations have ended. For more on this incredible holiday visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead