AP

In Mexico, Day of the Dead is actually a celebration of life

Oct 30, 2022, 11:05 AM | Updated: 2:22 pm
A woman dressed as a catrina participates during the parade of the "Day Of The Dead Festival" in Gu...
A woman dressed as a catrina participates during the parade of the "Day Of The Dead Festival" in Guanajuato as part of the 2021 'Day of The Dead' celebration on November 1, 2021 in Guanajuato, Mexico. (Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images)
(Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — During the Day of the Dead celebrations that take place in late October and early November in Mexico, the living remember and honor their dearly departed, but with celebration — not sorrow.

Marigolds decorate the streets as music blares from speakers. Adults and children alike dress as skeletons and take photos, capturing the annual joy-filled festivities. It is believed that during the Day of the Dead — or Dia de Muertos — they are able to commune with their deceased loved ones.

No one knows when the first observance took place, but it is rooted in agriculture-related beliefs from Mexico’s pre-Hispanic era, said Andrés Medina, a researcher at the Anthropological Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Catholic traditions were incorporated into the celebration after the Spanish conquest in 1521.

“In that mythology, the corn is buried when it’s planted and leads an underground life for a period to later reappear as a plant,” Medina said. The grain of corn is seen as a seed, comparable to a bone, which is seen as the origin of life.

Today, skeletons are central to Day of the Dead celebrations, symbolizing a return of the bones to the living world. Like seeds planted under soil, the dead disappear temporarily only to return each year like the annual harvest.

Altars are core to the observance as well. Families place photographs of their ancestors on their home altars, which include decorations cut out of paper and candles. They also are adorned with offerings of items once beloved by those now gone. It could include cigars, a bottle of mezcal or a plate of mole, tortillas and chocolates.

Traditional altars can be adorned in a pattern representative of a Mesoamerican view that the world had levels, Medina said. But not everyone follows — or knows — this method.

“To the extent that Indigenous languages have been lost, the meaning (of the altar) has been lost as well, so people do it intuitively,” he said. “Where the Indigenous languages have been maintained, the tradition is still alive.”

The way Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead continues to evolve.

Typically, it is an intimate family tradition observed with home altars and visits to local cemeteries to decorate graves with flowers and sugar skulls. They bring their deceased loved ones’ favorite food and hire musicians to perform their favorite songs.

“Nowadays there’s an influence of American Halloween in the celebration,” Medina said. “These elements carry a new meaning in the context of the original meaning of the festival, which is to celebrate the dead. To celebrate life.”

In 2016, the government started a popular annual parade in Mexico City that concludes in a main square featuring altars built by artisans from across the country. The roughly three-hour-long affair features one of the holiday’s most iconic characters, Catrinas. The female skeleton is dressed in elegant clothes inspired by the engravings of José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican artist who drew satirical cartoons at the beginning of the 20th century.

On Friday afternoon in the capital city, Paola Valencia, 30, walked through the main square looking at some of the altars and explained her appreciation for the holiday: “I love this tradition because it reminds me that they (the dead) are still among us.”

Originally from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, she said the residents of her hometown, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, take a lot of time to build large altars each year. They are a source of pride for the whole community.

“Sometimes I feel like crying. Our altars show who we are. We are very traditional and we love to feel that they (the dead) will be with us at least once a year,” she said.

Road at the entrance of the municipal graveyard of Teotitlan del Valle as part of the 2021 'Day of The Dead' celebration on November 01, 2021 in Oaxaca, Mexico. (Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) A traditional 'Dia de Muertos offering' is displayed as part of the 2021 'Day of The Dead' celebration at Parque Papalotla on November 01, 2021 in Papalotla, Mexico. (Alan Espinosa/Getty Images) People pose for photos next to a traditional 'Dia de Muertos' offering set up by the municipality of Texcoco as part of the 2021 'Day of The Dead' celebration on November 01, 2021 in Texcoco, Mexico. (Alan Espinosa/Getty Images) A man dressed as a "charro" and a skeleton on horseback participates during the parade of the "Day Of The Dead Festival" in Guanajuato as part of the 2021 'Day of The Dead' celebration on November 1, 2021 in Guanajuato, Mexico. (Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images) People disguised stand during their participation in the Deaths in Soledad de Etla as part of the 2021 'Day of The Dead' celebration on November 1, 2021 in Oaxaca, Mexico. (Cristopher Rogel Blanquet/Getty Images)

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

AP

R&B singer R. Kelly (L) arrives at the Cook County courthouse where jury selection is scheduled to ...
Claire Savage and Michael Tarm, Associated Press

Chicago prosecutor dropping R. Kelly sex-abuse charges

A Chicago prosecutor said Monday that she's dropping sex-abuse charges against singer R. Kelly following federal convictions in two courts that should guarantee the disgraced R&B star will be locked up for decades.
21 hours ago
Amy Robach and TJ Holmes attend the 2022 ABC Disney Upfront at Basketball City - Pier 36 - South St...
Associated Press

TV anchors T.J. Holmes, Amy Robach leave ABC amid romance

T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, anchors at the afternoon extension of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” are leaving the network.
21 hours ago
FILE - Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey gets ready to spin his popular "Wheel of Fugitive" in July...
Associated Press

Florida sheriff sued for ‘Wheel of Fugitive’ defamation

A man has filed a defamation lawsuit against a Florida sheriff who posts weekly “Wheel of Fugitive” videos on social media.
21 hours ago
Police tape hangs from a sign post outside Richneck Elementary School following a shooting on Janua...
Ben Finley and Denise Lavoie

School where boy shot teacher reopens with added security

The Virginia elementary school where a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher has reopened with stepped-up security and a new administrator.
21 hours ago
RowVaughn Wells speaks to attendees during a candlelight vigil for her son Tyre Nichols at the Tobe...
Adrian Sainz

6th Memphis officer relieved of duty in Nichols arrest

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A sixth Memphis Police Department officer has been disciplined for his involvement in the brutal beating and arrest of Tyre Nichols, a department spokeswoman said Monday. Officer Preston Hemphill was relieved of duty shortly after the Jan. 7 arrest of Nichols, who died three days later at a hospital, Memphis police […]
21 hours ago
FILE: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during a news conference outside of his off...
Hope Yen and Zeke Miller

Biden, McCarthy to discuss debt limit in talks on Wednesday

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he's looking forward to discussing with President Joe Biden a “reasonable and responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling” when the two meet Wednesday at the White House.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
In Mexico, Day of the Dead is actually a celebration of life