BY: JESSICA BEUKER
It’s that time of year again. Where kids and adults alike scrounge together old curtains and bedsheets to try and fashion their last-minute costumes. Where houses deck their doors in cobwebs and adorn their steps with glimmering, jack-o-lanterns. Where candy flies off the shelves of your local supermarket faster than you can say “Hocus Pocus”.
Yes, Halloween has arrived again. But October 31 isn’t just reserved for tricking and treating. It’s also the start of a three-day long, lively celebration of the dead.
Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, as well as other places like North America, typically by those of Mexican ancestry. The holiday brings together family and friends to remember and pray for those who have died.
Rituals celebrating the death of ancestors have been observed for thousands of years. Even Halloween, although it has largely been co-opted by consumerism in North America, is historically a three-day observance, dedicated to remembering the dead, much like Day of the Dead. By the late 20th century, Day of the Dead celebrations were divided into two parts – November 1, which is dedicated to honouring deceased children and infants, and November 2, which honours deceased adults.
According to Mexican Sugar Skull, Mexicans believe that the gates of heaven open at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all the deceased children get to reunite with their families for 24 hours. Then, on November 2, the spirits of the adults are welcomed to enjoy the festivities that their loved ones have prepared for them.
During this time of celebration people go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed. They paint the tombs fluorescent colours and light candles.
Families also build altars in their homes. The altars are elaborately decorated with candles, buckets of flowers, skeletons, sugar skulls, fruit, nuts, and the favourite foods and drinks of the departed. Toys and candies are left for the children, while cigarettes and shots of Mezcal are offered to the adult spirits.
One of the reasons for the elaborate celebrations is that they believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to families.