October people of the UnitedStates, the idea

October people of the UnitedStates, the idea

October 31, November 1 & 2The Days of the Dead (or Los Dias de los Muertos) is a traditional three-day celebration practiced throughout Mexico. For the people of the UnitedStates, the idea may take a bit of getting used to. The holiday honors thedead and welcomes them back for two days of feasting and festivities.

It isnot a time of mourning, but a celebration of life.The tradition of The Days of the Dead goes back to the Aztecs, long beforethe Spanish conquistadores arrived in what is now Mexico. The Aztecsbelieved that death was just one phase of a long cycle of life; not anending but a transition. Each Fall, they and other native people celebratedtwo feasts for the departed: one for children and one for adults.

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After theSpanish missionaries arrived, the traditional Aztec two-day feast came tobe carried out on All Saints Day and All Souls Day and many of the deitiesof the native peoples were supplanted with Catholic saints. The holidaythat evolved is a combination of indigenous and Spanish customs.In Mexico, The Days of the Dead are a time to rejoice. On October 31, afamily will go to the market and buy food, candles, incense and flowers.

They buy, among other things, sugar calaveras (skulls), sweet breads calledhojaldra and rosquette or pan de muertos – loaves of bread decorated with”bones” – and a type of marigold called zenpasuchitl or cempasuichil. Athome, the families prepare ofrendas, altars laden with offerings of food,candles, incense and flowers for the departed in their families. Then theygo to the cemeteries and adorn the graves of their loved ones. Rituals atthe cemeteries differ from town to town, but most feature feasting andmariachi music. After dark in many traditions, solemnity reigns.

Manypeople remain at the cemetery throughout the night.The overall tenor of the two days of welcoming the dead is one ofhappiness. Parades run through towns with coffins carrying the “dead” (whosit up and smile and accept the oranges that are tossed to them).

Toys andtrinkets abound, and the bakers’ shelves are lined with holiday food. Thedead are seen by the living as playful and happy beings who want to beentertained and feasted and cherished, and the holiday celebrates life, not

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