Celebrating Souls

Reported by Carla Schulze

The Day of Death,  also called ‘’El dia de muertos’’ is a very famous Mexican holiday that honors the afterlife of the people that passed away recently. The period during which people celebrate the reunion with their relatives is usually between October 31 and November 2. The people honor the lives of the dead by dressing up wildly and having huge parades along the streets that should represent their belief that at this moment the special border between the spiritual and real world disappears. According to Mexican tradition, during this brief period, the souls of the dead awaken and return to the living world to enjoy their time with their family and take part in the festivals of their loved ones. In reaction to this, the living family members treat their relatives as honored guests in their celebrations. The most common symbols of the Day of Death are skeletons and skulls which is also the reason why visitors at contemporary festivities commonly wear skull masks and also the candy is shaped into little skulls.
Traditionally, the festival was only celebrated in more rural and nature-based areas in Mexico, but due to demographic changes and the increased movement from the people to the cities, this cultural element of Mexican heritage was brought to the more densely populated parts of the country and caused an effect of awareness and appreciation at the people that belonged to different cultures. Specifically, the fact that 36 million American citizens have their roots and relatives in Mexico, offered the opportunity for these people to share their culture with the Americans, continue their traditions in a different country, and finally establish a new environment they are surrounded by. Of course, this process of cultural exchange still hasn’t concluded and there will always be differences between America and Mexico, but you still can see a kind of cultural mix (for example at the establishment of Mexican food in the American kitchen).

To come back to the Day of Death, many people also call it ‘’Mexican Halloween’’, but you should be careful to mix up these different types of festivals that firstly have nonidentical traditional roots and secondly both want to send separate messages through their celebrations. Nonetheless, the Day of Death and Halloween have similarities that make it easy to mismatch them.
To cut a long story short, the whole purpose of the Day of Death is to honor the people who passed away and celebrate as a community the value of life through showing gratitude, tolerance, and kindness to each other!

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