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1 Kris Sanchez Sarah OHara English 101 February 26, 2009


The Celebration of the Dead Have you ever seen these colorful folklore figures around Tucson and wondered what they are? These figures are associated with a Hispanic tradition known as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. On November 1st, Dia de Muertos Chiquitos, The Day of the Little Dead, is celebrated in honor of departed children. On this day family members bring toys and sugar skulls to decorate the graves of the children that have passed before them. The evening of November 1st is called la Noche de Duelo, The Night of Mourning; this tradition is marked by a candlelight procession to the cemetery. However, this is not a time of sorrow for its said, the path back to the living world must not be made slippery with tears. November 2nd is the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos when the spirits of the dead return to visit their loved ones. It is not a time of mourning, but rather a joyous occasion when the memories of ancestors and the cycle of life is celebrated.

2 In the United States and Mexico families build altars in their homes to honor the deceased. Grave sites are decorated with flowers, food, pictures and beverages such as tequila. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat and drink these spiritual offerings. When the festivities are over, those celebrating will eventually eat and drink the spiritual offerings. However, they believe these foods lack any nutritional value. Pillows and blankets are also left out so the deceased can rest after their long journey. The gravesites are also beautifully decorated with flowers. The main flower used for decorating is the orange marigold or cempasuchitl, these flowers are thought to attract the souls of the dead. At night hundreds of candles can be seen around the gravesites. The candles are lit so the dead have light to find their way home. Dia de los Muertos celebration in Mexico can be traced back some 2500 to 3000 years. Back then the celebration consisted of real human skulls that were kept as trophies to symbolize death and rebirth. These skulls or trophies were then displayed at a Dia de los Muertos celebration, which was referred to as All Saints Day. Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico, there was a strong attempt to convert the native population to Catholicism. The Spaniards believed the Day of the Dead ritual to be sacrilegious and viewed the native people as barbaric and pagan. The native population believed so strongly in their beliefs and rituals that a sort of pact was made to convert some old native rituals with that of some traditional Catholic rituals. This resulted in a combination of All Saints Day and All Hallows Eve (Halloween) which is how Dia de los Muertos

3 came to exist. Although the skeleton is symbolic for both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, the meaning is different. This is where those beautiful folklore skeletons come into play. These dead skeletal statues are joyous, flamboyant and sometimes completely outrageous in mimicking the living. The most common skeletal statues are that of female figures, which are known as catrinas, a feminine form of the word catrin, which means elegant. Next time you see one of these elegant skeletons remember to give celebration to the dead!