Day of the Dead By Maru Correa
In Mexico, the 2nd of November is the official day to celebrate the day of the dead. It is a cultural expression where families gather to pray and remember family and friends that have died. It is not a mourning day, but rather a celebration. How possible can death become a celebration? Well, it all starts by planning how to set up the home altar during the previous week. The altar (ofrenda in Spanish) is a tribute and an offering to
people that is no longer with us, so everything starts by taking their pictures out of the boxes. Their images will be surrounded by what was their favourite food and drinks (yes including tequila, bear, pulque, etc.), the traditional bread of the dead (a delicious sweet sponge decorated with bone-shape pieces) and other symbolic items like water, salt and candles. Multicolour perforated paper is used to decorate tables and walls, and flowers including the Mexican marigold, cockscomb and panicle baby's-breath give the last finishes. The ofrenda should be ready on the night of the 31st of October (latest), so that the souls of the children can visit it that very night. The spirits of adults will visit on the following night (1st November). It is believed that, their spirits can do a journey back home during this time of the year, and the light of the candle show them their way. As it is a long journey, water should be ready in the altar, so that they can quench their thirst. During their visit, they eat and drink all the offerings.
Old traditions and new traditions are always merging. Nowadays, on the night of the 1st of November, families gather with their younger members to ask for calaverita, known in the UK and USA as trick or treat, similar to Halloween. Almost every kid in cities wears fancy dresses and goes around the streets asking for treats.
Not only kids and young people dress-up, many parents and family members love to wear the spookiest dress, as you can see in this image in Mexico City.
During the first and second of November, many families in Mexico visit family and friends graves with the aim of fixing and decorating them, and most important, to pray, sing and remember. My family always made the visit on the morning of the 2nd of November. In this picture, they are around my granny’s tomb, which is also my grandpa’s one (and my older aunt and uncle). We all pray and sing to them, and we tell stories of them, remembering holidays and other special moments when they were alive. Of course that there is always some tears, but most of the time we honour them by being happy and thankful for the time we got with them. That is how we celebrate the day of the dead.