As most of my readers already know...I teach Spanish and I thought today I would give you a brief...or not so brief historical lesson on El Dia de los Muertos. I used this lesson in class today. Of course...after the boring notes part we did some fun stuff. We made masks and made papel picado. How fun was that? Anyways....What do you know about El Dia de los Muertos. Well...from someone who does not like our Halloween....this holiday has an appeal to me. Especially since I lost my dad a few weeks ago....but that is another story....All you wanted to know about Dia de los Muertos in a nutshell is this...More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death.
It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate. A ritual known today as Día de los Muertos/Dia de los Difuntos, or Day of the Dead. The ritual is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States, including the Valley. Celebrations are held each year in Mesa, Chandler, Guadalupe and at Arizona State University. Although the ritual has since been merged with Catholic theology, it still maintains the basic principles of the Aztec ritual, such as the use of skulls. Today, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars that are dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend, according to Mary J. Adrade, who has written three books on the ritual. The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth. The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the monthlong ritual.
Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake. "The pre-Hispanic people honored duality as being dynamic," said Christina Gonzalez, senior lecturer on Hispanic issues at Arizona State University. "They didn't separate death from pain, wealth from poverty like they did in Western cultures." However, the Spaniards considered the ritual to be sacrilegious. They perceived the indigenous people to be barbaric and pagan. In their attempts to convert them to Catholicism, the Spaniards tried to kill the ritual. But like the old Aztec spirits, the ritual refused to die.
To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards moved it so it coincided with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (Nov. 1 and 2), which is when it is celebrated today.
Previously it fell on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximately the beginning of August, and was celebrated for the entire month. Festivities were presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The goddess, known as "Lady of the Dead," was believed to have died at birth, Andrade said. Today, Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and in certain parts of the United States and Central America.
The celebrations differ from place to place.In rural Mexico, people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones. In Guadalupe, the ritual is celebrated much like it is in rural Mexico. In Guadalupe the people spend the day in the cemetery and they decorate graves.In Mesa, the ritual has evolved to include other cultures. In the United States and in Mexico's larger cities, families build altars in their homes, dedicating them to the dead. They surround these altars with flowers, food and pictures of the deceased. They light candles and place them next to the altar. On Sunday....I will be taking part in something similar...All Saints Sunday at my church. There will be an altar....there will be photos of loved ones and church members...there will be candles....there will be a celebration....and we will do When the Saints Go Marching In. It will be a time of prayer for those who have lost loved ones...not for the dead. Sigh....I build the altars at our service...so I guess that means no incense, no papel picado in purple, pink and white....hummmm I wonder if anyone would know why my altar cloths are those colors on Sunday? Awww...I will keep it to the traditional white cloth...with simple candles...no sugar skulls or Dead Bread...although...we are having communion....so pita bread will be present. LOL....you are wondering where I am headed with this...who knows...I am feeling a bit weird today....so I am just rambling. Have a great Friday....and whatever you chose to celebrate this weekend....be safe!
To Joey, With Love....WINNER!
6 months ago