Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day of the Dead!

Her face is unforgettable and she goes by many names: Fancy Lady, Skinny, Bony, and Baldy. A fixture in Mexican society, she's not some trendy fashion model, but Death (La Muerte).

La Catrina by Mario López Torres
Hello, Diana here to share a little bit of one of my favorite Mexican traditions: Dia de Muertos, which is celebrated on November 2nd.
Every year The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago opens a beautiful exhibition about the celebration, on this post I am including photos I took during my visits from this year and last year, forgive the bad pictures but most of them were taken behind glass or without flash.

 Photo from the Museums web page

A Little bit of the Traditions History
More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate. A ritual known today as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

Offering for the Dead by Olga Costa

Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake.

Display in the Museums Lobby

Untitled by Oscar Soteno

Differing from the Roman Catholic imposed ritual to commemorate All Souls’ Day, which is observed in many countries, the custom established by pre-colonial Mexican civilizations become a ceremony where indigenous beliefs blended with Catholic beliefs. Therefore, the Day of the Dead in Mexico is not a mournful commemoration but a happy and colorful celebration where death takes a lively, friendly expression.

 Cartoneria by Miriam Castañeda

Frida Kahlo Skeleton by Castillo Orta F.

Nun, Archbishop and Nun by Alvaro de la Cruz

The Day of the Dead is an ancestral tradition that blended with Catholicism to create a special time and space to remember and honor the loved ones with offerings,  the fragrance of the flowers, the light of the candles, the aroma of special foods and the solemnity of prayers.
Altar commemorating the 200 year celebration of Mexico’s Independence
 It is also a time to joke and make fun of death through "calaveras", poetry allusive to a particular person, generally politicians; sugar, chocolate and amaranth skulls which are given to one another with their friend’s name so "they can eat their own death" and special crafts allusive to different aspects of the living, with skeletons representing daily activities.

Sugar Skulls by The Mondragón Family

  Today, Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and in certain parts of the United States and Central America.
It's celebrated different depending on where you go.

In rural Mexico, people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones.

Source: Bing Images

In the United States and in Mexico's larger cities, families build altars in their homes, dedicating them to the dead. They surround these altars with flowers, food and pictures of the deceased. They light candles and place them next to the altar.

                            I don’t have the information about this altar, but isn't it Gorgeous? Everything on it is knitted.

The Altar

The altar includes four main elements of nature — earth, wind, water, and fire.
Earth is represented by crop: The Mexicans believe the souls are fed by the aroma of food.
Wind is represented by a moving object: Tissue paper is commonly used to represent wind.
Water is placed in a container for the soul to quench its thirst after the long journey to the altar.
Fire is represented by a wax candle: Each lit candle represents a soul, and an extra one is placed for the forgotten soul.

National Museum of  Mexican Art, 2010

I hope you found this little post interesting, Happy Day of the Dead!


Sources: azcentral and 

2 Scrappy thoughts:

gayle said...

Di, this post is absolutely fascinating :) thank you so much for sharing this with us! I think the altars are so beautiful :)
(was that a chocolate skull with TST I spotted?)

Kristin said...

Oh WOW Di, what an interesting post. I am absolutely fascinated by this holiday every year. They have a huge tribute to it in the artists village in Santa Ana and the decor and crafts in the surrounding stores simply amaze me every time I see them. Thanks for sharing your insight with us! Kxx