El dia de los muertos

The 2nd of November is the most important day in Mexico,  the Day of the Dead, however it sounds friendlier in Spanish (El dia de los muertos). I think that this day is even more important for Mexicans than Chtistmas or New year. I was surprised that here they have so few public holidays, only 8 days per year. Especially considering Russia has 10 days off just for New Year, learning that for me was a bit depressing.

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The Day of the Dead was born thanks to a mix of indigenous traditions and Spanish influence in Mexico. The Aztecs were celebrating the harvest in July and August and the fruits of their work formed part of their offering to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. When the Spanish came to Mexico they decided to attach the tradition to the catholic All Saint`s day which is celebrated on the 1st of November. So, the Day of the Dead is not Halloween and Mexicans don’t go trick or treating and nor do they carve pumpkins. They build an “ofrenda” in their house and go to their local cemetery. An “Ofrenda” is an altar with colourful skulls made of sugar, sweet bread decorated with bones and skull shapes “pan de muerto”, a picture of a dead relative, flowers and candles. Mexicans believe that these objects will come in handy to their relatives in their next lives (inframundo).

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Families gather together to honour their friends and family members who have died. They start celebrating on the 1st of November which is considered the day for children who have died and the 2nd is the day for adults. People go to cemeteries and decorate the graves with candles, bright orange flowers “Aztec marigolds” and sugar skulls. They spend the night there eating, laughing and praying for the souls of their loved ones with mariachi music in the background. There is nothing sad about this holiday, people celebrate death in a way that a European would hardly understand.

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Being in Mexico city on the 2nd of November is an amazing experience. Almost everybody wears a costume and the city becomes mystical and even more surreal than usual. The last James Bond movie inspired the Mexico city`s government to organise a Carnaval similar to what they had in the movie. It is a beautiful show not to miss.

 

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