November 1

The Magic of Mexico’s Day of the Dead


This weekend through tomorrow, November 2nd, is celebrated here in Mexico as “Día de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead.”

Much of the world sees this holiday as a little morbid and strange when it’s a significant and memorable event that many don’t understand.

Many of you have seen the “La Catrina” skeleton figures, or you may associate Día de los Muertos with skulls and strangely-painted faces or masks, as in the image with this post.

Maybe your only “experience” of Día de los Muertos is from the opening scenes of the James Bond movie, “Spectre” where Bond chases an assassin through the streets of Mexico City during a Día de los Muertos parade. There are bands, and floats, and everyone is in costume.

But the reality behind the celebration is much happier and more caring than anything I ever associated with the concept of death until we moved to Mexico.

Día de los Muertos doesn’t celebrate death but rather the memories of the family or friends who have died. Some believe that the spirits of the dead never die, as long as their memory still lives.

During the holiday, families (and even individuals) might create a display inside or just outside their homes. It is usually decorated with flowers (almost always marigolds), along with photos and other items associated with a departed friend or family member. Sometimes, these “ofrendas” will include favorite foods or other items related to the deceased.

These displays can be very ornate, and some people spend an incredible amount of time constructing them. The time and effort are meant to show respect to the deceased and remind anyone who sees them about the departed person.

Many families will also visit the cemeteries where their family members are buried and will clean and decorate the gravesite out of respect for the memory of the dead. We’ve seen families replace grass, clean tombstones, and hang colorful and decorative “papel picado” banners in the cemetery.

Over the few days of the celebration, families will gather to share the deceased’s favorite food and music, and will likely share stories and memories of those who have passed.

The importance of this holiday and the dedication, time, and effort demonstrated by the Mexican people to the memory of the people who’ve been lost can teach those of us who didn’t grow up with this tradition much about life.

Día de los Muertos doesn’t celebrate death. It honors the memory of life, and is only one of the many wonderful cultural differences that we’ve been privileged to experience with our life in Mexico.

If you can’t personally experience the Día de los Muertos celebration, then take the time to do a little research. Here’s a link to a Wikipedia article that can give you a place to start.

Most of my posts are about technology, privacy, or investigations.

This one is about how getting out of my comfort zone by moving to Mexico helped to change my attitudes about mortality.

And maybe also my faith in humanity.


Día de los Muertos

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