Monday, November 3, 2008

Dia de los Muertos

Recapping the already familair: Day of the Dead / Dia de los Muertos, distinct from but analogous to Catholic / Celtic fall equinox holidays, is an extended holiday, covering October 31st (Young Souls Day), November 1st (All Saints Day) and November 2nd (All Souls Day). Today's the last day. I missed posting anything for October is National Humanities Month, but here's the annual DoD observance

The observance of Day of the Dead in Mexico and New Mexico goes back to pre-Hispanic Mexico to the Aztecs, Mayans and other indigenous peoples in Mexico. They believed that the souls of the deceased return annually to visit living relatives and eat and drink with them. These cultures all celebrated the return of the dearly departed with festivals and celebration.

Day of the Dead celebrations keep the tradition that loved ones don’t ever truly die. They come back. Although not specifically about this holiday, Carlos Fuentes' essay "Dias enmascarados" does address shared Mexican and Spanish cultural preoccupations with both death and the past. Or as Faulkner (so admired by Fuentes) famously stated, the past is not dead; in fact it's not even past.

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Media Credit: Gabbi Campos / Daily Lobo
Flo Bargar marches in a Dia de los Muertos parade in the South Valley on Sunday. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in memory of loved ones who have died.

The concept is global. In old New Orleans, European, African, and native customs of the dead were also mixed. “Touissaint,” French for All Saints Day, is the only remaining American celebration of the old European Day of the Dead. Immortelles (elaborate mourning wreaths), candle burning, and dining with the dead are still held in New Orleans cemeteries on this day. A history of frequent disease and death prompted celebration and festivity. Funerals accompanied by revelry evolved into customs such as “The Jazz Funeral” (complete with brass band and invariably playing When the Saints go Marching In), “Death Watch,” lively Wakes — similar to the Irish Wake - and the Zombi.
New Orleans jazz funeral

It's not just Europe and Meso-America either. The Ghost Festival (aka Hungry Ghost Festival, honors and feeds the departed) celebrated in China, Japan and other Asian countries bears more than a passing resemblance to Dia de los Muertos and other festivals - including food.
Thai Hungry Ghost Festival

Dia de los Muertos: Activities, Art & Folk Art Links

1 comment:

  1. Here in Costa Rica, we also have the Day of the Dead. In our area of the country, the day is celebrated with visits to the cemetaries. During these visits the tomb is washed and/or painted, and flowers are placed on the tomb.


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