Living in Mexico has given me the opportunity to observe and participate in many new celebrations and Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is one that I will now look forward to every year. By coincidence, it’s just two days after Halloween, and Halloween has become part of the weeklong celebration leading up to Dia de Muertos. The Mexicans have enthusiastically embraced the Halloween tradition of asking for and giving out candy, but the number, scale, scope and intent of the Dia de Muertos celebrations puts even the best Halloween parties in the US to shame. Here in San Miguel de Allende there is a weeklong celebration in remembrance, and in honor, of deceased family and friends. Death is not considered an end here, but the beginning of another phase in someone’s existence. In a melding of Aztec and Christian beliefs, the spirit world and our world are the closest together in early November, so there are several days of parades and celebrations leading up to November 2 when family and friends visit loved ones at the cemetery.
Elaborate ofrendas, or alters, are erected throughout the city and in many people’s homes. The central jardin is the location for many of the more elaborate displays. The favorite food and drink of the honoree are part of the ofrenda, as well as copious amounts of flowers, floral, and seed images. Marigolds and Cocks Comb have particular symbolic significance, but the arrangements don’t stop there.
Traditionally, November 1 is the day that deceased children are visited in the cemetery, then on November 2 masses of people arrive to celebrate the life of their deceased friends and relatives. The entrance road to the cemetery is packed with food and flower venders, set up just for these special days. Inside the cemetery flowers are displayed and piled high everywhere, while people settle in for a full day (and well into the night) celebration. Music is played by mariachi bands and musicians throughout the day, families spend time together, and those that are no longer among the living are remembered, honored, and celebrated.
Learn more about Dia de los Muertos here.