Day of the Dead Essay

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The United States consists of many people, each with different cultures and traditions. Mexicans celebrate a variety of traditions such as a Quinceanera or Cinco de Mayo. Another popular tradition that Mexicans celebrate is Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. This religious holiday is celebrated over the course of three days and deceased loved ones are remembered and honored. Altars are built, and offerings are made to pay homage to those who have perished. Americans are becoming more familiar with Día de los Muertos and are adding minor changes while celebrating the Mexican tradition.What exactly is Día de los Muertos?

Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday when deceased loved ones are remembered and celebrated. Despite popular belief, Día de los Muertos is not a Mexican Halloween. In fact, unlike Halloween, which is fright filled, Día de los Muertos is the opposite. This is a day of celebration for the perished. In the article “Día de los Muertos: How Mexico Celebrates Its Annual “Day of the Dead”, Kelley Richman-Abdou explains where Día de los Muertos originated. “Rites and rituals reminiscent of The Day of the Dead can be traced back to the Post-Classic period (1300 to 1521) in Pre-Columbian Mexico. During this time, the Aztec Empire flourished, bringing with it a treasure trove of traditions” (Richman-Abdou). Unlike many people today, the Aztecs didn’t mourn the dead. Death is inevitable so instead of shying away, the Aztecs celebrated the spirits.

Winston 2Día de los Muertos means Day of the Dead but is commonly used to describe the three-day event. “Specifically, Día de los Muertos traditionally refers to November 2, when deceased adults are commemorated, while November 1—Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”)—is reserved for infants and children who have passed away” (Richman-Abdou). Día de los Muertos was originally celebrated over a one-month period in August but has since been reduced to three days starting October 31st and ending on November 2nd. “Following Spanish colonization, the Day of the Dead was gradually influenced by another holiday honoring those who have died: Allhallowtide (Richman-Abdou). Allhallowtide is a Catholic holiday where the dead is remembered, but more solemnly.

These days consists of all hallow eve, All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day. “This Catholic influence altered the religious aspect of the festival, though it remains rooted in Aztec mythology” (Richman-Abdou).The Aztecs believed in the mythical figure Mict?cacihu?tl, goddess of the underworld. “La Calavera Catrina—a secular female skeleton character that has come to symbolize Día de los Muertos—was inspired by Mict?cacihu?tl” (Richman-Abdou). MIT is believed to keep souls in Mictlan, but once every year the souls can return to loved ones. In the article Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), describes the return of the souls. “During this brief period, the souls of the dead awaken and return to the living world to feast, drink, dance and play music with their loved ones” ( The spirits can enjoy items left upon the altar. Families build altars (ofrendas) decorated with skulls, Marigolds (Flor de muerto) candles and pictures of the deceased.

The altars can contain an assortment of items ranging from a sweet bread known as Pan de muerto, to spirited drinks and items once enjoyed by the deceased. The Winston 3annual arrival of butterflies is said to bring in ancestors while the marigolds strong scent attracts and guide them back home.More recognition is being brought to this Mexican holiday using movies. The 2017 Disney and Pixar film “Coco” has brought a lot of attention to the ancient holiday. The film is about a boy named Miguel, who is transported to land of the dead and meets dead relatives. The original point of the quest was to get a blessing, but eventually turns into Miguel trying to keep the memory of his Great-great grandfather alive.

Part of Día de los Muertos is the belief of 3 deaths. In the article, “Coco will challenge the way you look at death”, Clarisse Loughrey explains the belief Mexicans have about death. “The “first death” is the physical one, the death of the body. The “second death” is more of a natural one: the moment the body is laid to rest in the earth and returned into nature’s cycle. The “third death” is that breached in the film and is the most definitive: the moment the last memory of you fades. Día de Muertos helps to delay that final death (Loughrey).

Once the last memory fades away, the person is thought to be no more. This tradition was once involved families visiting the cemetery to clean grave sites, place flowers, sing and dance, but since being introduced to the United States, things have changed. Day of the Dead is constantly evolving now that more Americans are aware and choose to participate.In the article, Altered Altars: The Changing Traditions of Día de los Muertos, Norma Cantu’, explains how Dia de los Muertos have changed since being introduced to American culture. Norma Cantu’, a distinguished professor and longtime collaborator with the Smithsonian states “In Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Tucson, and even Kansas City, Missouri, museums and cultural centers are hosting celebrations that include altar contests, meals that include pan de muerto con champurrado(chocolate) and Winston 4elaborate musical programs and poetry readings” (Cantu’). Americans have now added a twist on the indigenous tradition. Altars are now being used in the United States as tourist attractions and can be seen in public places such as museums. Chocolate is now being added to pan de muerto in traditional dishes. Poetry, musicals and parades are implemented in the festivities that once involved a more intimate gathering. Cities are hosting parades and children are dressing up as Lady of the Dead. Face painting and costumes are also part of the equation. Since the celebration is so close to Halloween, some things are being intertwined. In the article What to Know about Dia de Los Muertos, Tara John explains how the day is mimicking Halloween.

“In some parts of Mexico, children don costumes— quite like Halloween— for the Mexican version of trick-or-treating” (John). Día de los Muertos has no relation to Halloween. The two occasions have very different meanings, yet people have combined the two. On Oct. 29, Mexico City held its first Day of the Dead Parade, which officials say was inspired by the opening scenes of James Bond film, Spectre (John). Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego are a few other cities that give parades to celebrate the day. At the parades, people dress up and paint faces to resemble a skeleton. This may be different than how others celebrate, but the departed is still honored and that is the purpose.The introduction of Dia de los Muertos to the United States may have caused some evolution, but the sole reason behind the cultural tradition remains known.

The point of this Mexican tradition is to celebrate the dead and that is what ultimately is being done.The days and way of celebrating may have been altered due to a new culture participating, but the reason is constant. While it is true that evolution will occur when something new is introduced, this is one Winston 5holiday that seems to keep the importance intact. Dia de los Muertos is about honoring the dead and despite minor adjustments, is what is being done

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Day of the Dead Essay. (2020, Aug 21). Retrieved May 21, 2024 , from

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