In certain areas of Mexico in November they hold an ages old tradition of honoring family and friends who have passed. This is became very important in Mexican culture because it was believed that we experience a second death when all who knew, honored and remembered us have also passed. Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a very important day to remember and honor deceased loved ones. It began as a joining of the beliefs of the indigenous people of Mexico before the Spaniards arrived, and the Catholicism they brought with them.
As tradition goes, on or near All Saints Day, families of a village or town have a procession to the local cemetery with flowers and offerings of the deceased’s favorite foods, trinkets, photos, etc., and their final resting place is decorated with these items. It isn’t a mournful time, but rather a celebration of the lives of all past ancestors. Candy skulls are decorated, special foods and sweets are shared and the atmosphere is generally upbeat, but respectful. Calaveras, (skulls/skeletons), are used to represent the past ancestors. Celebrants may even paint their faces like calaveras.
As will often happen with these kinds of heartfelt traditions, they know no borders, and New Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos too. Since most people no longer live near the resting place of their ancestors, Albuquerque celebrates with a Marigold Parade, (marigolds being the most official flower used for this holiday), and people will paint faces and carry alters that honor their passed on loved ones to place along the parade route. This was once primarily a Hispanic celebration, but now everyone is welcomed to celebrate Dia de los Muertas.
Calaveras had become very trendy stating in the early 1900’s in Mexico, and today they are even more popular, especially during Dia de los Muertos. Pictured in the tin frame is La Patrona, a very important calavera. She represents all women heads of households; our mothers, grandmothers and aunties passed. She holds the keys to the cupboards, and runs the home and everything tied to it. Everyone in the household defers to her. She is loved and respected. I made this La Patrona for my daughter’s new mother in law, to celebrate the joining of our families.
Albuquerque has its own Dia De Los Muertos celebration, the Marigold Parade. This year the date is Sunday, November 2nd. If you are interested in participating or just viewing the parade, be sure to visit the official Muertos y Marigolds website for all the details. For information about previous Marigold Parades, Dia de Los Muertos and calaveras visit my past blog post from 2012, it’s full of more history and details.
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