By ZACHARY QUIROS
El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is not a Mexican version of Halloween, but they are both celebrated with parades and costumes. It is a Mexican holiday where families have a brief reunion with the souls of their deceased relatives. The day is a mixture of Pre-Columbian rituals and European beliefs introduced by the Spanish to Mesoamerica. The holiday is celebrated annually from Oct. 31 – Nov. 2. At midnight Oct. 31 the gates of heaven are opened and the spirits of children can rejoin their family for 24 hours. Nov. 1 is The Day of the Children and All Saints Day “El Dia de los Inocents.” On Nov. 2 the spirits of adults can rejoin their family on The Day of the Dead (All Souls Day).
El Dia de los Muertos is a celebration dating back around three thousand years when the Aztec and Pre-Colombian cultures were still living in Central Mexico before European religious influences. Calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls) are symbols presented to enjoy life. Another symbol noticed is the Aztec goddess of the underworld, a female skeleton known as La Calavera Catrina. There is a parade that begins at 3 p.m. in Mexico City. Before the parade, the streets are covered with color, skeletons, costumes, masks, flowers, and floats through the city. The parade starts in Mexico City at the Angel of Independence and ending in Zocalo, the city’s main square. It lasts around three to four hours and from 150,000 to 1 million people are expected to watch the parade.
Mexicans and others believe the gates of the afterlife are opened and their loved ones who have died return to join the festivities of a feast, drink, dance, and playing music with each other. The deceased are honored guests to their living family, who leave the deceased’s favorite foods and other offerings at gravesites or ofrendas built in their homes. An ofernda is a home altar with a collection of objects placed on a ritual display during The Day of the Dead.
People all over the world are afraid and scared of death. The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life and teaches people not to be afraid of death, but to realize that it is a part of life and to remind people to enjoy and take advantage of every moment of life.