Dia de los Muertos
The Day of the Dead
Death and Dying
Los Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday spanning two days and three nights. During this holiday, families gather to welcome the souls of the people that have died. They see these days as crossroads between the living and the dead. The Day of the Dead originates from ancient Aztec culture and although Christianity has influenced this celebration over the years, the Mexican people, like the Aztecs, still exhibit no fear of death and it is talked about openly and in everyday life. Ofrendas are a traditional element in celebrating the Day of the Dead; even their symbol of death, the calavera, helps to show that there is no denial of death in this culture. This is witnessed especially throughout the festivities.
The people of Ancient Aztec believed that death is part of life, even a continuation of life. The Aztec people embraced nature and understood their lives to be like those of other creatures in the world. They easily accepted that we all die and because of this, they had no fears or worries about what was to come.
However, the Spanish crusaders came along and in their attempt to turn the Mexican people Catholic, affected the celebrations. Catholicism actively denies death while the Mexican traditions do not. Because of the two cultures being brought so near each other, it was inevitable that Mexican traditions would change even if only very slightly. The Mexican traditions did not change very much because the Spanish Christians have very similar celebrations on the same days, but for the most part, they stayed the same.
In both cultures, they create Ofrendas or offerings to the dead. These Ofrendas are meant to bring the dead into the friends’ and families’ everyday lives. They are to remind people how much the dead were loved in life and how they are still loved and remembered. Often, on the Ofrendas,...
Cited: DeSpelder, Lynne A., and Albert L. Strickland. The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
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Lasky, Kathryn. Days of the Dead. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 1994.
Menard, Valerie. The Latino Holiday Book. New York: Marlowe and Company, 2000.
Toor, Frances. Treasury of Mexican Folkways. New York: Crown Publishers, 1947.
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