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Once upon a time in Mexico

Dance with the Dead

While some cultures regard death as the final end, Mexicans approach it quite differently. Once a year they take their brooms, candles, flowers, tequila and food to their cemeteries, cling up to death and celebrate it! Graves are decorated, families parade with candles and share their tequila and the favourite food of their departed beloved ones in the nightlong celebration.

Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is an old Aztec tradition with roots 3000 years back in time. The Spanish Conquistadors tried to remove it when they landed in what now is Mexico 500 years ago. Their only accomplishment was to move the ritual so it coined with All Saints Day and All Souls day(November 1 and 2), and henche make it more Christian. Previously it fell on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximately the beginning of August, and was celebrated all through the month. The Aztecs believed that life was a dream and that it was only in death they could truly wake up.

Diverse celebrations

Even though the ritual persists, it is celebrated differently depending on where you are. Today it is celebrated in Mexico, but also in certain parts of the US and in other parts of Central America. However they all share the colorful decoration of the family burial spot, lively reunions, the consumption of special food, offerings and religious rites that are most likely to include some noisy fireworks.

The ritual also keeps some of the most important principles of the Aztec rituals, such as the use of skulls. Wooden skull masks, called calacas are either weared while dancing to the dead or put on altars in honour. Sugar skulls, often ingraved with the name of the dead on the forehead, are also to be eaten by a relative or a friend of the dead.

As each locality offers their own distinctive traditions, the Day of the Dead offers an interesting insight into the diversity and changes of rural culture over the time. If you are in Mexico this time of the year, this is truly not to be missed!

The festival is celebrated annually on the 1st and 2nd of November.

This text (including the photo) is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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