When someone thinks of the Day of the Dead, parades, celebrations, and parties never come to mind. Well, that’s exactly what it is. The Day of the Dead is filled with exciting things that anyone can enjoy which makes it a time to celebrate instead of a time to mourn over lost, loved ones. Although is sounds similar to Halloween, the Day of the Dead is more about family instead of candy and dressing up. From the history, the festivals and rituals, to sugar skulls, the Day of the Dead is not a day to miss.
The Day of the Dead has a very unique history that starts with the Aztecs. The original Day of the Dead was celebrated during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar. This month was a celebration of the ‘Lady of the Dead’ who was a goddess in Aztec mythology. They would worship her during this month and celebrate her as well. There were days in this month called Día de los Inocentes and Día de los Angelitos which mean day of the innocent and day of little angels. The history of the Day of the Dead was changed once the Spanish came from Spain. When Spaniards came they converted the Aztecs to Catholicism which meant they didn’t celebrate this day anymore. However, much of the modern Day of the Dead comes from the Aztecs beliefs and traditions. The current version of Días de los Muertos is much like the old version. The Spanish believe that on one day the gates to heaven open and there loved ones can come see them again. The people make sure everything their relatives liked are there from them, so they can bring back to the afterlife with them. The day is a celebration for their loved ones not a mournful day. People will often visit graves and clean the tombs so everything is nice for them when they return. Although a lot of Días de los Muertos history does come from the Aztec people, there are still differences. First off, the celebration is only one day long instead of a month. Also, the day is more about welcoming back loved ones instead of worshiping the Lady of the Dead.
Celebrations are a big part of the Day of the Dead. Festivals and family gatherings make Días de los Muertos more fun and enjoyable. Festivals usually start with the construction of two ofrendas. One is a communal ofrenda and a regional ofrenda. The first one is for anyone to put item on that you want you family member to see while the second one has things from Spanish culture for any returning loved one to admire. After the ofrendas are ready there are crafts and activities for any age. Little kids can make puppets or a papel picado which is a paper banner. Older kids and adults can go to cemeteries and decorate them with flowers and decorations. There is also a lot of singing and dancing opportunities for anyone to participate in. If someone doesn’t end up going to a festival on Días de los Muertos then they are probably spending time with their family. Family is why the Day of the Dead is so important since loved ones and relatives are able to come back to the living world. Families often gather on Días de los Muertos and celebrate together. The whole family will often visit a graveyard, clean up around their relatives graves, and decorate them to show love and respect to them. Also a family will most likely have their own ofrenda decorated just for relatives in there family. Ofrendas have candles, pictures, flowers and even foods that their loved ones enjoyed during the life. Although all of these things are important on the Day of the Dead what most families end up doing is eating, singing, and most importantly, talking about their family members who will return that night.
Whether a family goes to festivals or just stays home to celebrate the Day of the Dead, they probably come across a sugar skull or even make one during Días de los Muertos. Sugar skulls are more than just decorated sugar despite popular belief. The history of the sugar skull starts when Spaniards came to the Aztec people. The Spaniards had many customs that they shared with them. One custom was about molding items to create decorations. Since sugar was very easy to find at that time many people would mold it into shapes like skulls. People started making sugar skulls in the 17th century and they were first placed on ofrendas in the 18th century. The skulls were normally made smaller when placed on children’s ofrendas, while the ones one adults were much bigger. It’s not just the history of the sugar skull that is interesting, it also has an interesting creation method. Since the popularity of sugar skulls happened a very long time ago the ingredients are simple. Each sugar skull is made up of sugar and water, nothing more. The mixture of sugar and water is placed in a mold and then left to dry in the sun. The sugar will become dry which makes them holdable and touchable without crumbling or falling apart. However, the really interesting part is how they are decorated. Some are made completely edible using sprinkles, icing and edible embellishments. Others use non edible ingredients such as colored foil, feathers, and glitter.
The Day of the Dead is not a day to miss due to its exciting history, the festivals and family celebrations, and the unusual tradition of sugar skulls. The Day of the Dead is a very special holiday for the Spanish culture. The day celebrates the dead instead of mourning their losses. The celebrations and traditions make it an interesting and unique day that any Hispanic person knows and loves.