The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos)

The ”Día De los Muertos” (The Day of the Dead/All Souls’ Day) is one of the most important Latin-American holidays, particularly celebrated in Mexico with special customs and festivities. The celebration co-occurs with the Roman Catholic Church holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 1st and 2nd). However, the Latin-American origins of this celebration reach back to ancient Indian times. In Aztec mythology, Mictecacihuatl is the keeper of the remains of the deceased (therefore, she is often referred to as the Lady of the Dead). The Indians celebrated her with an ancient festival for the dead that included festivities lasting several days. After the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, this “pagan” celebration was fused with the Christian All Souls’ Day, forming what is known today as Día de los Muertos in Mexico. Locals believe that Mictecacihuatl is still present at such events today. Their belief is expressed by the use of special symbols (mostly skeletons and skulls) and happy, humorous events of remembrance. As part of this celebration, people remember deceased family members and friends in the course of family gatherings. They usually construct small altars (which are often decorated with small, edible sugar skulls), prepare the favorite meals and drinks of the deceased, and taking these, the whole family visits the graves of the beloved in order to eat the prepared festive meals as if “together” with the deceased. The importance of the Día de los Muertos is indicated by the fact that relating to this festival, several forms of Mexican artifacts, gift objects and everyday objects were developed during the last centuries. Some of these are to be introduced later.