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It is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living family members.
Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated November 2. On this day, it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living family members. Many people celebrate this day by visiting the graves of deceased loved ones and setting up altars with their favorite foods, drink, and photos.
WHEN IS DAY OF THE DEAD 2023?
The Day of the Dead is observed on November 2 each year. It follows on from All Hallows Eve on October 31 and The Day of the Children and All Saints Day on November 1.
HISTORY OF DAY OF THE DEAD[size]
The ancient indigenous people of Mexico have practiced rituals celebrating the lives of past ancestors for around 3,000 years. The celebration that is now known as Day of the Dead originally landed on the ninth month of the Aztec calendar and was observed for the entire month. In the 20th century, the month long festivities were condensed to three days called The Days of the Dead: Halloween on October 31, Day of the Innocents on November 1, and Day of the Dead on November 2.
La Catrina is one of the most recognizable figures of Day of the Dead, a towering female skeleton with vibrant make up and a flamboyant feathery hat. The Lady of Death worshipped by the Aztecs protected their departed loved ones, guiding them through their final stages of the life and death cycles. La Catrina that we know today came to be in the early 1900s by controversial and political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada. Artist and husband of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, included José’s La Catrina in one of his murals which depicted 400 years of Mexican history. His mural, “Dreams of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park”, includes himself and a young child holding hands with La Catrina, who is dressed in sophisticated garb and a fancy feathered hat.
Plans for Day of the Dead are made throughout the year. Toys are offered to dead children and bottles of alcohol or jars of alote get offered to dead adults. Most families decorate their loved ones’ graves with ofrendas, which often includes marigolds. It’s said that these specific flowers attract the souls of the dead to the offerings, and the bright petals and strong scent guides the souls from the cemetery to their family’s home.
Since the 1960s, when the Mexican government declared it a public holiday based on educational policy initiatives, Dia de Muertos has been observed throughout Mexico. The tradition was added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.
DAY OF THE DEAD AROUND THE WORLD
|China||Ghost Festival||This traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival is part of Ghost Month, during which ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased relatives, come out of the lower realm.||The 15th day of the 7th month of the Lunar calendar, which is normally at some point during August.|
|Cambodia||Pchum Ben (Ancestors Day)||A religious occasion when the gates of hell are said to open up and the souls walk among the living. People dress in all white and make food offerings.||15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, which usually falls in September.|
|North and South Korea||Chuseok||Chuseok is a harvest festival and comparisons are often drawn to Thanksgiving. It’s tradition for Koreans to visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects.||Meaning “Autumn Eve” the holiday is celebrated for three days straight, normally in either September or October|
|Nepal||Gaijatra||Known as the “festival of the cows” Gaijarta is a celebration of death. It’s purpose is to help people accept death as a reality and to help ease the passing of those who have died. Each year cows, or children dressed as cows, walk in a procession throughout towns.||The first day of the dark four night according to the lunar Nepa. This is usually in August or September|
The main tradition for Day of the Dead sees families gather to honor and remember their loved ones who are no longer with us. Celebrated as a sacred and joyous occasion, there is plenty of food, lots of flowers, visits with family members and nostalgic stories about those who have died.
HOW TO OBSERVE DAY OF THE DEAD
Learn about Mexican culture
This holiday is a good opportunity to explore the rich culture of the Mexican people. Learn more about their customs and explore some of their most popular festivals and holidays.
Visit a community cemetery
Many cemeteries are filled with festive sounds, smells, and imagery. Even if you don't have an altar, stop by a local community event to experience the sights and sounds that fill this day.
Host a Day of the Dead event at your home
This day is meant to be celebrated with family and friends. Make a large dinner and ask people to bring a photo of a loved one that has passed away, and place all photos on a table. During dinner, go around the table and have everyone say one fun memory about their loved one. The key is to keep it fun, positive, and festive.
WHY DAY OF THE DEAD IS IMPORTANT
You get to remember your loved ones
While death can be a mournful experience, the Day of the Dead allows us to remember the happy memories we have of our loved ones.
Altars show respect for the dead
Altars may come in different shapes and sizes, but they all serve the same purpose, to show respect and honor a late loved one. This day provides you a time to go through old photographs, letters, toys, and other items that may hold sentimental value.
It brings people together
Believers across the country observe the holiday. People who share similar beliefs and practices unite to mark the holiday.
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