Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a celebration of life rather then death throughout the Hispanic community. On November first and second, All Saints day and All Souls day, Hispanics gather to celebrate in their own customs and intrigues according to their specific cultural region. However different these regional cultures may be they all share in a similar celebration of life through remembrance. Many times these festivities are held at the grave site of their loved ones and also throughout the streets. Decorations range from skeletons, toys, elaborate costumes, paper cutouts, elaborate wreaths and crosses, flowers (commonly Marigolds), and candles. Many of these decorations are used to make altars in honor of the deceased. These altars are also many times decorated with pictures, food, coffee, tequila, and so on.
The reasons of these altars are for the souls of the deceased to make their visit back to the home. The altars are usually set up in the home of the passed soul. When the soul returns they can enjoy all the things they did in the past life, it is sort of a welcome home. Not only is this attention given to the altars at the house, but also to the graves from which they are put to rest. The graves also vary in decoration according to local tradition; crosses, wreaths, flowers, toys for the young, streamers, and even the polishing of the grave stone. As stated above this is more of a celebration then anything. These people are celebrating the lives that the deceased had lived. During these grave visits many times there will be music, drinking, and even vendors selling their goods. Many outsiders that may witness this so called partying or celebrating may be put off by this. Many may think that this is very disrespectful in regards to the deceased. They do not understand that it is more of a celebration for the lives these people lived and not that they have died. Here in the United States we stray from death, many are scared of it and don't want anything to do with it. The dealings with death differ from every culture; however we can trace many of these celebrations back to the ancient periods. The Day of the Dead lends itself to much fascination as it crosses ancient Pre-Hispanic traditions with that of the Roman Catholic Church. It also crosses Spanish and ancient tribes that first raised the Mexican land. In regards to cultural contact, the majority of the Hispanic population living today abides by the Roman Catholic beliefs. Before the Spanish Conquistadors came to settle in Mexico, many of the local tribes of coarse had their own traditions in dealing with death. These too were very elaborate celebrations. In Mexico's ancient civilizations many times it was considered a blessing to die as an infant, or in battle, or as a human sacrifice. This pretty much ensured the deceased a free pass to the afterlife. They also gave these people proper and elaborate burials. It wasn't until the Spaniards came that they infused these ancient rituals that held true to their land and their beliefs as Catholics. When the Spaniards had first arrived and seen the ancient tribes celebrating death, they thought of coarse that this was horrible. They believed that the tribes were mocking death and had no respect. This of coarse had been their tradition for over three thousand years. As the Spaniards tried to rid these people of there horrible rituals and try to convert them to Catholicism, they realized that this would never happen, and as we see today it hasn't. The main affect the Spaniards had on this tradition was merely the date. They converted the tribes celebrations into their Roman Catholic holidays of All Saints and All Souls day, (Nov. 1, 2). Many of these tribes kept skulls as trophies of those that had passed, and they displayed them during these rituals. These skulls were also a symbol of death and rebirth. Today in the celebrations we see...
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