Travel to Mexico this week and you will be a part of a very special, yet spooky holiday. But what is Dia de los Muertos? It is a tradition that is held over two day to pay homage to the deceased, and what better way to do it than with skeletons, colour and a tradition that dates back as long as 2500-3000 years.
November 1 and 2, also coincides with the Catholic All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day. Typically, the two-day celebration is divided into separate days to honor deceased youth, Dia de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels) on Nov. 1, and adults for Dia de los Muertos on Nov. 2. In some beliefs, it is a three-day holiday beginning on Oct. 31, All Hallows Eve, when some believe the souls of young children arise at midnight.
On Dia de los Muertos, families gather to celebrate those who have died as well as build altars in their homes, schools or other public places to pay homage to the deceased. Many honor the dead with gifts of sugar skulls, chocolate, marigolds (the Mexican flower of death), sweetbreads and trinkets. Families also typically visit graves to deliver the ofrendas, or “offerings,” and hold vigils with candles and photos.
Dia de los Muertos can be traced back to the Aztecs who celebrated with a festival for the goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl, and the Catholic Spanish conquistadors’ All Saints' and All Souls' days. Scholars have noted the indigenous cultures of Mexico honor the Lady of the Dead, the modern La Catrina, which many recognize today as a skeleton woman wearing a fancy hat.
Here in Australia, celebrations are becoming more common with people celebrating the Mexican holiday in costume, and a fiesta of Tacos for a more enjoyable night out.