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

AP

In this Jan. 4, 2013 photo, evidence of sliding snow is seen in steep terrain near a ski area at Sn...

Associated Press

2 snowmobilers killed in separate avalanches in Washington and Idaho

Two snowmobilers have been killed in separate avalanches in Washington state and in Idaho.

6 hours ago

Tova Callender, left, and Christiane Keyhani of Hui O Ka Wai Ola, collect water samples at the Mala...

AUDREY McAVOY Associated Press

In Hawaii, coral is the foundation of life. What happened to it after the Lahaina wildfire?

For now, state officials are urging the public to limit their exposure to the ocean and seafood until scientists understand what might be making its way through the food chain.

13 hours ago

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule with a crew of four on a mission to the International S...

Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer

4 new astronauts head to the International Space Station for a 6-month stay

SpaceX has launched four astronauts to the International Space Station who will oversee the arrival of two new rocket ships during their stint.

15 hours ago

Louisville emergency crews rescue the driver of semitruck that is dangling off the Clark Memorial B...

Associated Press

Truck driver pulled to safety after crash leaves vehicle dangling over bridge across Ohio River

The driver of a semi-truck was pulled to safety Friday by firefighters following a crash that left the vehicle dangling over a bridge across the Ohio River.

19 hours ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures at a campaign rally...

Mark Sherman

Supreme Court restores Trump to ballot, rejecting state attempts to ban him over Capitol attack

The Supreme Court has restored Donald Trump to 2024 presidential primary ballots, rejecting state attempts to hold the Republican former president accountable for the Capitol riot.

20 hours ago

FILE: A JetBlue Airlines plane takes off near Spirit Airlines planes at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywo...

Michelle Chapman, AP Business Writer

JetBlue, Spirit ending $3.8B deal to combine after court ruling blocked their merger

JetBlue and Spirit Airlines are ending their proposed $3.8 billion combination after a court ruling blocked their merger.

21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

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