Top-Rated Free Essay

Dia de Los Muertos- the Day of the Dead

Powerful Essays
Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead

Jackie Norsworthy

Dr. Richardson

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, families will put the favorite things of the person that is dead. There will be his favorite food and toys so that his picnic with his living family on the day of the dead will be more enjoyable. Also on the Ofrendas, flowers like marigolds are placed. It is believed that these brightly colored flowers help the dead to see after they come out of the darkness.

Another way that families help their deceased relatives and friends to see is by lighting candles for each individual that has died. When they light these special candles, they remember each person individually and say their name out loud. By doing this, they believe that the dead will find their way easier. Many people even light candles for no one in particular so that the souls of people without family or friends will not get lost in their travels.

Once the souls of the dead reach their destination, families sit around the graves of the deceased and party with them. They sit in the graveyard, around the graves of their loved ones and eat and share family stories that both the living and the dead enjoy. Unlike Christians, the Mexican people do not fear being in a graveyard. Christian culture makes people feel like graveyards are unsafe places where the souls of the dead lurk. Many people really fear going into graveyards in the dark because they fear that the dead will do something to them.

The Mexican people do not fear graveyards at all. They even spend the night at the gravesites of the deceased after they celebrate and picnic there. Before the deceased even return, families go to the graves of their loved ones and clean up the area. They plant new flowers and decorate the grave in honor of the dead. This is kind of like Christian traditions of people going to the graves of the dead and putting bouquets of flowers in memory of that person. However, in today’s society, it isn’t even necessary for people to do this themselves. Because of the denial today, people like the graveyard caretakers do this work for the living. It’s almost as if going to a grave to pay respects to the dead is inconvenient, and since we can pay people to do just about anything for us, we do. Jobs like grounds keepers make today’s society deny death by doing the work that should be done by the family to show they love and remember the dead.

Another way that they show that they do not deny or fear death is through the traditional foods that are made on these days. Pan de Muerta, or bread of the dead is made in the shapes of bodies or skeletons. This sweet bread is made and first enjoyed by the dead, although they can not really eat it, and what is then left of the bread is eaten by the living family. Also, candy skulls are made and the names of both living people and deceased people are put on them. They are put on graves and Ofrendas and “eaten” by children living and dead.

Skeletons are used as a way of showing death in life. Skeleton figures, or Calaveras, are depicted doing everyday activities. These show that the Mexicans know that all people die. No person in any occupation can avoid death and the calaveras show this. They are even comical depictions of skeletons doing various activities and they are in everyday life situations.

The day of the dead is a day when Mexican people are even more open than usual to talk about and experience death and dying. Although they are very open about death, this day allows for the passage of the souls of the dead into the world of the living to eat, drink, and party with their surviving family. By celebrating this day, Mexicans show that they do not fear death.

Works Cited

DeSpelder, Lynne A., and Albert L. Strickland. The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
Gnojewski, Carol . Day of the Dead: A Latino Celebration of Family and Life. Enslow Publishers, Inc, 2005.
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.

Cited: DeSpelder, Lynne A., and Albert L. Strickland. The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Gnojewski, Carol . Day of the Dead: A Latino Celebration of Family and Life. Enslow Publishers, Inc, 2005. 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.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Essay On Day Of The Dead

    • 498 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Day of the Dead is celebrated in the beginning of November by mainly Latin American countries. In Mexico, it is a major holiday and taken very seriously. It is a celebration in which the dead are joined with the living. Those from the afterlife come in contact with life on earth and partake in both scared and joyous festivities. The dead come as spirits from their afterlife to rejoin their families and visit their homes. It is a time when the deceased are able to enjoy once again the pleasures of life. This holiday is unlike any other. This holiday gives believers the ability to somewhat under stand the afterlife or at least connect with it. It functions as a "ritualistic elaborate celebration of life, rather than a sober mourning of its passing." By rejoicing in bright colors, extravagant outfits and giving gifts of food and spices Mexicans as well as other cultures are able to cope with mortality.…

    • 498 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Dia de Los Muertos

    • 954 Words
    • 4 Pages

    I am going to tell you about a famous, yet kinda eerie celebration that takes place in mexico. This is a tradition celebrated by the Mexican Natives, most Mexican Americans (including myself) don 't even acknowledge this day, unless they happen to be visiting mexico at the time of this event.…

    • 954 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Day of the Dead

    • 322 Words
    • 2 Pages

    The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos in Spanish) is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage (and others) living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saints ' Day and All Souls ' Day which take place on those days. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Observance of the holiday in Mexican-American communities in the United States has become more important and widespread as the community grows numerically and economically.…

    • 322 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated on November 1 and November 2. I know you’re probably thinking, “Wait two days?” Yes, Day of the Dead is a holiday that spans to two days. Dia de los Muertos was born from ancient Aztec and Catholic celebrations. This holiday features smiling skeletons and sugary treats (shaped like human skulls) called calaveras. The most traditional celebrations are in central and southern Mexico (the Aztecs native). On Dia de los Muertos many families celebrate by building small home altars called ofrendas. They contain pictures, favorite foods, and drinks of the dead friends or family members. But all the food - including sweet pan de Muerto, or bread of the dead -…

    • 197 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    El Día de los Muertos or more commonly known as the Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and many other Spanish speaking countries. The multi-day holiday focuses on the ones who have passed away and to remember family members, friends and relatives. The Holiday starts on October 31st but the Day of the Dead starts on November 1st. There are still some questions left to really analyze this holiday. How did the Holiday become the way it is? Why is the holiday popularized in Mexico rather than countries? What is Día de los muertos? Where do people go to celebrate this day and what other holidays and what do they do?…

    • 873 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Day Of The Dead Essay

    • 882 Words
    • 4 Pages

    To see countless skulls, graves, and hearing music may be an odd way to imagine a funeral for some. However, for the people of Latin America, this is beautiful portrayal and magnificent celebration of life after death. A large feast is served, graves are decorated, and altars are set up as colorful vigils. In Mexico, this is called the Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos. This is the Mexican tradition of celebrating the afterlife and inviting the deceased spirits of loved ones back home. Many people today view death as a tragic and heartbreaking experience, but the people of Central America are elated to see their family members who have passed once again. This paper will discuss how the use of food, embellished altars, and music show commemoration…

    • 882 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Day of the Dead is a holiday which is celebrated in Mexico and begins on October 31st; the day of Halloween in the United States, and ends on November 2nd. On the Day of the Dead, families and friends come together to remember and pray for their relatives who have died. This holiday is much like Memorial Day which is celebrated in the United States.…

    • 440 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    October 31st, Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico and other countries by families who have dealt with the grief and pain of loved ones that have passed away. Day of the Dead is a time focused on gatherings of friends and family to pray and remember others who have died (Villalba).…

    • 257 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Aztec Tradition

    • 2087 Words
    • 9 Pages

    7. "Death and Dying." Encyclopaedia of Death and Dying. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2012. <http://www.deathreference.com/A-Bi/Aztec-Religion.html>.…

    • 2087 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Is Cinco de Mayo really the Mexican Independence Day? While most people mistake Cinco de Mayo for the day that Mexico gained their independence, Cinco de Mayo- the fifth of May- is actually celebrated because on that day the Mexican army claimed a victory over the French army in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Mexico actually gained their independence on September 16, 1810, 50 years before the Battle of Puebla occurred. The Franco-Mexican War began in late 1861; which was an invasion of Mexico by the Second French Empire. In 1861, Benito Juárez became president of Mexico. The country was in financial trouble and he was forced to put his debts on Spain, France, and Britain’s governments. Because of this, the countries sent naval forces to demand a reimbursement. Both Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico, but France decided to take…

    • 893 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    LLU essay 5

    • 424 Words
    • 2 Pages

    It’s celebrated with rituals, tears and respecting their life, yet honoring their death. As humans, we…

    • 424 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    The Navajo Indians

    • 2376 Words
    • 10 Pages

    The Navajo Indians are the largest Native group in North America. They are primarily located in the Southeast Basin, nearby Mexico. Being such a large group of over 250,000 members, covering an area of about 27,000 square miles, they all lived by their beliefs and rituals. Having such strong beliefs made them kind of predictable, not in harm’s way but as to their process of death, ceremonies and burials. The Navajo Indians have a very strong beliefs that were passed down from there ancestors and still they practice them to this day. According to traditional Navajo beliefs, birth, life and death are all part of an ongoing cycle.…

    • 2376 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    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…

    • 1937 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    The holiday Dia de los Muertos celebrates life of the dead. In Mexico, the celebration is held from October 31 to November 2. The origins are a combination of inherited beliefs and Catholic teachings. The days are a lasting and enduring ritual when the living converse with the dead. The roots of this tradition go back to pre-Hispanic cultures of Meso-Americans. When the Spaniards invaded the country this celebration was rooted so deeply that even after 5 centuries it is still celebrated like its first days. When the Aztecs arrived in Mexico they were wearing long shawl like things that were brightly colored. These are called sarapes which are now worn by men.On Día de los muertos tradition holds that the dead come back to earth to visit the living.…

    • 669 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Hispanic American Culture

    • 349 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Although the Day of the Dead is viewed as an American custom, the reality is that this festivity originated during the era of the Aztec empire. During this summer celebration,…

    • 349 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays

Related Topics