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How do celebrate the holiday of the dead in Mexico?

There are countries where people are dying with humor. Mexico is probably the brightest of them. Historically, death here is viewed a bit on the other hand, rather than in a typical Europe, for example. For Mexicans, death is not the end, but the beginning. Therefore the deceased are not commemorated and do not mourn. Once a year they are greeted with joy on their faces. On this day, everything turns upside down: the day changes with the night, the city is filled with people dressed in the costumes of the dead, and the cemetery becomes the most visited place. So is the holiday of the dead in Mexico. What is the name of this action? Perhaps you have already heard this phrase: Dia de los Muertos. And now let's get acquainted with this reckless event and try to understand what his philosophy is.


The festival of the dead in Mexico goes back to the Aztec and Mayan times. In the system of their beliefs, death took the form of a kind of ritual, like a resurrection. Even before the Spaniards conquered Mexico, the skulls of their deceased relatives, which were actively used in the Aztec ceremonies, were kept in the houses of the Aztecs.

In the summer, the Aztecs were allocated a whole month, during which a series of sacrifices was arranged. Thus, they paid tribute to the dead and generally the afterlife with his mistress, the goddess Miklansiwatl.

The first conquerors of Mexico noticed that the Aztecs mocked death in their rites. These rituals were considered blasphemous, and against those who use them, began to impose sanctions. The indigenous population of Central America was forced into Catholicism by coercion, but the ancient traditions remained unchanged. The government managed to shorten the period of sacrifices and rampant ritual action to several days. However, it was never able to replace the joy of people with grief, and the skull, which is the main attribute of the holiday of the dead, to the cross. What became the basis for such an event as the holiday of the dead in Mexico: a myth or reality, it is difficult to affirm. One thing is known for sure - this day unites millions of people.

When does the holiday take place?

The ancient pagan festival tried to maximally adjust to the Christian canon. Previously, it was celebrated in the 9th month of the Aztec calendar, but later moved to November 1-2. On this day Catholics celebrate the Day of the Dead and All Saints' Day. Sometimes a holiday of the dead in Mexico begins to celebrate on October 31. Since this action has the status of a national holiday, state enterprises and schools do not work these days. The holiday is conventionally divided into the Day of the Little Angels (November 1) and the Day of the Dead itself (November 2). On the first day, the deceased babies and children are worshiped, and in the second - adults.


According to Mexican beliefs, the dead do not go away forever, but continue to live in the afterlife, which is called Miktlan. Therefore, death for them is the same holiday as birth. In fact, it is a birth, but in a different way. Mexicans believe that once a year the deceased come to their homes to visit relatives, do their favorite things and feel the charm of life.

In the major cities of Mexico, the Day of the Dead begins to be prepared in a few months. In educational institutions and all sorts of communities, they make costumes, masks and puppet dolls. Musicians prepare for performances, altars are transformed, and flower companies receive large orders.

Altar and offerings

The symbolic door between the world of the living and the dead is the altar, made of yellow marigolds. Altars are installed everywhere, so that through them the souls of the deceased could get home. In recent years, they can be found even in schools, shops, restaurants, hospitals, central streets and other crowded places. Barkhatets in this regard is often called the flower of the dead.

To the altar lay various gifts: candles, toys, fruits, tamale (a national dish made from corn flour) and so on. Required attributes are water (the deceased are tormented by thirst after long travels) and sweet "bread of the dead".

For the holiday, women prepare the favorite dishes of the deceased relative and fill the bed so that he can rest. Family and friends gather together to meet the deceased with joy.

Skulls and Skeletons

When the festival of the dead approaches, in Mexico everything is filled with its symbols - skulls, skeletons and coffins. On any counter you can find these attributes in the form of chocolates, figurines, trinkets and other tinsel. On the windows they are often stacked in the form of pyramids, symbolizing the Aztec cymbals. Tsompatl is a wall of skulls of defeated enemies, symbolizing the inseparable connection between the living and the dead.

Skulls and skeletons in this holiday can be seen literally everywhere: on doors, walls, asphalt, clothing and even skin. If you are given a coffin with your name on the Day of the Dead, do not be offended - you wholeheartedly wish all the best. Such gifts give dear and dear soul to people.

"Calavera Katrina"

Another interesting symbol, which boasts a national holiday of the dead in Mexico. It is a skeleton, dressed in rich women's outfits with a wide-brimmed hat. The phrase "Kalavera Katrina" literally translates as "Skull of Katrina". Often this symbol is called the "fashionable skull". Many locals believe that this is how the goddess of the dead looks. But in fact this symbol became known from the engraving La Calavera de la Catrina in 1913, which was performed by the artist Jose Guadalupe Posad. So he wanted to illustrate that even the richest and most successful will one day become victims of death. One way or another, the image of Katrina over time has become firmly entrenched in the status of one of the main symbols of such an event as a holiday of the dead in Mexico. Makeup for women on this day often symbolizes the very Katrina.

Trekking to the cemetery

In this holiday in the parking lots near the cemetery is almost impossible to find a free place. Here come whole families to look after the graves of relatives, fill them with bouquets of marigolds, decorate with candles, bring favorite dishes and drinks of the deceased. Here picnics and dances are organized for national music.

Evening trekking in the cemetery for Mexicans is not a sad event, but a real holiday. They meet here with relatives, have fun and just have a good time. Around each grave of the idyll: men chat with each other, women set the table, the elders tell the joys the funny stories from life, the children play, and no one is afraid of the day when death will overtake him.

Parade of the Dead

Sincere night gatherings in the cemetery are more common in small towns. In megacities, they often arrange real carnivals. The holiday of the dead in Mexico, whose photos amaze the level of organization, is taking place on a grand scale. The city, which is empty during the day, with the arrival of the night is filled with orchestras. Classical and folk musical instruments create a colorful atmosphere, which, according to local residents, raises the dead from the grave. At least, she inspires the living to dance until the morning.

Behind the wandering bands there are huge groups of people. Most of them dress up in colorful outfits and paraphernalia, which is famous for the festival of the dead in Mexico. Masks that you can meet in public on this day, mostly personify death. But all of them, as well as souvenir skulls, are endowed with a broad, sincere smile. The procession does not have a clear direction and timetable. Any person can join him. Carnival captivates the whole city, but with the advent of dawn on November 3, it fades out for a whole year.

Regional differences

Just imagine: for today in some cities the Day of the Dead dwarfs Christmas on its scale. However, in each of the cities the holiday is celebrated in its own way and with different scales. For example, in the city of Oaxaca de Juárez, the main event of the day is the carnival procession. Meanwhile, in the valley of Mexico City, most resources are spent on decorating houses and altars.

In the town of Pomuch they observe the traditions of pre-Columbian times. Here, each year, the bodies of deceased relatives are exhumed and they are cleansed of flesh. In the Tlahuac area, ancient rural traditions are honored and lavish celebrations are held in the cemeteries. In Ocotepeque in a large number of sacrifices. And the roads from the houses where people died in the last year are covered with flower petals to the cemetery.

Similarity with Halloween

The main holiday in Mexico, the Day of the Dead, is held around the same time as Halloween, and has a number of similarities with it. Both festivals were born during the early cultures and once, somehow, mixed with the Christian faith. The day of the dead, as well as Halloween, is based on the belief that the dead return to our world. Attributes of the holidays, fully reminiscent of death, also shares similarities.

However, there is a significant difference in these two events. Halloween symbolizes fear of death. He is replete with characters with a negative reputation: witches, vampires, demons, zombies and so on. Masks in Halloween are worn in order for evil creatures to take people for their own and not cause them harm. On the Day of the Dead, on the contrary, the dead are welcomed, and death is perceived as the birth of something new, bright and great.

Holiday of the Dead in Mexico: tattoo

The Day of the Dead is so popular all over the world that even in the former CIS countries do tattoos with its attributes. Most often, the body depicts the very same Culveru Katrina, which many consider the incarnation of the death goddess Miklosansuatl.


Today we met on such an unusual holiday as the Mexican Day of the Dead. Definitely the philosophy of Mexicans concerning death deserves attention and, at least, makes us think that perhaps our fear of death is greatly exaggerated. And the deceased, perhaps it would be much more pleasant to see the smiles on the faces of their relatives, and not grief.

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