Mexico's Day of the dead festival

Adesua Emmanuel 27 September


Mexico is a beautiful country filled with ruins of ancient civilizations, remnants of colonial influence, diverse cultural heritage and so much more. This country has been occupied by people for thousands of years and it is recognized as one of the six cradles of civilization, over time it has seen many empires and dynasties notable among them the Aztecs and Mayan civilization, these people left the vestiges of their culture and way of life on the present-day people. This article aims to give an expose on one of the eeriest traditions left behind, the day of the dead celebration. 


Origin of the festival


Dating back to hundreds of years ago, it is based on an Aztec traditional festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, when the Spanish came to colonize Mexico and other lands where the reach of the Aztec empire extended to, they considered this tradition sacrilegious and barbaric and tried to quash it but to their dismay, it not only survived but spread further it was originally celebrated in the summer but over time the date of the celebration changed and with the pervading catholic influence all over the land, it was made to coincide with the popular church celebration all saints and all Souls day which are celebrated on Nov 1 and Nov 2 respectively. The day of the dead tradition was not celebrated in northern Mexico until the early 21st century when the Mexican government made it a national holiday as a way of creating a unifying national tradition based on practices of its indigenous people. Now moving on you may want to ask how is the day of the dead celebrated.




How is the day of the dead celebrated?


This beautiful tradition that dates back hundreds of years holds special meaning to the Mexican people. It is celebrated based on the premise that death is not the end of life, that it is a part of the cycle of life, and that for each of our relatives who are gone, we can celebrate their life journey and cherish the memories that were created with them when they were alive, it also tries to bring family members and friends closer so they can always share stories of loved ones who have passed away and remember them. Now there are many ways this can be done. First, there are colourful public parades to celebrate the moment. There are also specific costumes, masks, and body art done by the people. 


Traditionally people on this day visit the cemetery and attend to the graves of loved ones, they remove all debris and weed, clean t and redecorate it, add adornments and generally pray for the soul of the loved one while offering gifts and incenses, also most families gather around and share food like a mini picnic to celebrate the special day. At home or in the cemetery most times an altar is set, now on this altar, you would find the memorabilia of the dead ranging from pictures to drawing and loved belongings, anything to signify the dead and to demonstrate how much the dead one is loved, then family members come bearing gifts, food, fruits and place it on this altar to create a loving filled ambience for the dead, now during this time, prayers are also said for the souls of the deceased.


 These altars also are known as Ofrendas and are decorated lavishly with candles, beautiful flowers and so much more, afterwards since it is believed that the deceased come to celebrate together with loved ones, food and drinks are brought out for family members and friends and they all come together to have a merry time with music and dancing. This is a very important festival and it is usually treated as such, skull masks, candies made in the shape of a skeleton and so much more are commonplace. 


It should be noted that one important part of this festival is the nighttime where families of the deceased ones spend it at the graves of their deceased ones, eating, drinking, and making music.  This festival is done to celebrate the memory of a dead loved one, you wish they were here and you, therefore, go all out to show how much you remember their part in your life. Moving on, there are specific tips on how to ensure you have a memorable time during this festival.




Tips on what to do during this festive period



Now remember this is an important time for the Mexican people and if you are determined to celebrate this festival and have a wonderful time also, there are specific things you must do. First show respect to everyone you meet and ensure you obey all safety precautions, it is a festive period and things can get a little bit unruly. 


Next, make sure you are in a prime position to enjoy the public parades which are usually filled with dancing, music, and merriment. You can also buy masks, do body art, and join in the parades and you are sure to have a good time, next if you are a visitor and you have native friends you can come bearing gifts of fruits and food and you would surely be welcome, you can also buy or make candies in the shape of a skull which is done to celebrate these times. Most importantly, this celebration is done to venerate the memories of deceased loved ones and one of the best ways to do this is to help tend or clean their gravesides. 


This is always appreciated by families of the deceased and they would most likely invite you to join in their merriment and give you food and drinks to celebrate.  Most importantly, this is a foreign country for tourists and a little Spanish cannot do you any harm, it would instead help you navigate your way around and you would not step on the toes of natives. All being said and done this is a very fun tradition which is new to most people, therefore I assure you the cultural expose you would get during this fun period would leave you wanting more.