The Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Mexico since before the arrival of the Spanish. In fact, it was a celebration common to all Mesoamerican cultures that had a similar concept of death and its meaning. In these cultures the fate of the dead was marked by the way of life that the person had. With the arrival of the Spanish, the party became mestizo and added new Catholic elements and meanings. The flower cross is the most significant of these elements.
The celebration takes place on November 1 and 2, although it usually begins on the night of October 31 when the first candles are lit to receive the little dead, the children. The 1st is All Saints' Day.
On the night of 1 to 2, the offering reaches its maximum splendor. They pray and in some areas of the country they spend the night in the pantheons. It is the Day of the All Souls. At the end of the celebration, all the dishes and drinks of the offering are tasted.
Every year many families place offerings and altars decorated with cempasúchil flowers, papel picado, sugar skulls, bread of the dead, mole or some dish that their relatives liked to whom the offering is dedicated, and as in pre-Hispanic times, incense is placed to aromatize the place.
Likewise, the festivities include decorating the graves with flowers and many times making altars on the tombstones, which in indigenous times had great significance because it was thought that it helped to guide the souls to walk on a good path after death.
Tradition also indicates that, to facilitate the return of souls to earth, marigold flower petals should be spread and candles placed tracing the path they will travel so that these souls do not get lost and reach their destination. In ancient times this path led from the family home to the pantheon where their loved ones rested.
This is how the Underworld was divided:
Death was important in Mesoamerican cultures. For the Mexica, Mictlán was the place of the dead, where the deceased went through a process for four years to leave their bodies and emotions in their wake. And Mictlantecuhtli was the lord of death.
There were nine levels that were obstacles that people had to overcome. In the first, for example, there was a river that people crossed with the help of a xoloitzcuintle, an emblematic hairless dog of Mexico.
Later, they went into caves, climbed obsidian mountains, resisted cold winds, lost the force of gravity, received arrows, among other actions.
The last level represented the passage of nine rivers and it was like meeting all the emotions, in a process of purification.
What is the marigold flower?
Cempasúchil is a plant native to Mexico and Central America that is used as an ornament in offerings and altars.
It also blooms in the fall (around the Day of the Dead). It is said that its yellow petals mark the path that the dead must travel during the visit they make these days because they are supposed to keep the heat of the sun and their aroma calls them.
Other Characters from These Dates:
The dead and the gods are the first characters of these days since pre-Hispanic times. The common element was the dog - the Aztecs knew the xoloitzcuintle - which according to tradition helped in Mictlán to find the way to their final destination.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Catrina was added, the skull created by the engraver José Guadalupe Posada, which, dressed in various ways, marks the satirical vision, a mockery of death in Mexico.
Alebrijes, a handicraft made of cardboard and with vibrant colors that represent fantastic animals, began to become popular from the second half of the 20th century.
American Halloween, which is celebrated on October 31, on the eve of the Day of the Dead, is also a sign of syncretism and is characterized by facing death with jokes or activities whose original purpose was to scare the deceased.