The most important fiesta in Spain is the three-day Day of the Dead celebration, during which time people gather at graves to pay respect to their departed loved ones.
According to Dia de Los Muertos or the Day of The Dead in Spain, the dead people’s souls descend to earth when the sky opens.
What you need to know about the Day of the Dead national holiday is as follows:
1. What Is the Day of The Dead?
It goes beyond a single day. During this two-day celebration, which is traditionally conducted on November 1 and 2, families really summon the ghosts of their deceased ancestors for a fleeting reunion.
To lure the visiting souls, altars are stocked with treats like food, drinks, and even toys.
The Day of The Dead in Spain is celebrated rather than observed as a solemn occasion since it is thought that the alive and the deceased may communicate at this time.
The skull, or Calavera in Spanish, is a recurring subject in indigenous Mexican art that dates back to the Aztecs some thousand years ago.
This prehistoric civilization fashioned complex skull reliefs out of jade and obsidian, stitched them into their clothes, and carved skulls out of stone monoliths and ceramic pots.
The skull was a sign of resurrection rather than a macabre reflection of our individual mortality, and worshipping death was really a very upbeat activity since it also celebrated new life.
2. What Day Is the Day of The Dead in Spain Celebrated?
The festivities for this Mexican festival may start on October 28 depending on your location. The holiday is celebrated on November 6 elsewhere.
In addition to Spain, Latin America, and the Philippines, it is an official holiday in Mexico and is celebrated throughout the Americas.
3. How Did the Celebrations Begin?
The tradition is believed to have started in pre-Hispanic Indigenous societies thousands of years ago.
The Aztecs believed the afterlife was not permanent and that death was only a passing state.
According to some scholars, these traditions, which are today commemorated in conjunction with All Souls’ Day, were incorporated into the Catholic calendar with the entrance of the Spaniards in the 16th century.
Native Aztec, Nahua, and Toltec populations in Mexico had the view that life continued beyond death. The memories of the people and the spirits of the deceased were preserved.
The dead would briefly return to Earth during a month-long summer celebration hosted by the deity Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead.
The rites underwent a modification with the entrance of the Spanish, who attempted to convert the natives to Christianity.
The Da de Los Muertos evolved into a fusion of pre-Hispanic & Christian concepts on the dates we now recognize because Catholics observe All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on November 1 and 2, respectively.
4. Celebrations of The Day of The Dead in Spain
On November 1, many families in Mexico will spend the day remembering the children, sometimes referred to as “angelitos” (little angels), by decorating their graves with balloons, toys, and fresh flowers.
They will commemorate adults who have passed away on November 2 by celebrating All Souls Day.
Families construct “ofrendas” (altars) on graves to honour their departed loved ones. They also use marigold flowers called cempasuchil flowers, which are thought to help the dead’s souls find their way back to the family cemetery where they were buried.
Others write “Calaveras” (skulls), which are brief satirical poems that serve as inscriptions for friends and include amusing anecdotes and descriptions of their peculiar behaviours.
The skull, which represents the cyclical nature of life, serves as the day’s principal emblem.
Gifts for the living or the dead might be offered in the form of chocolate or sugar skulls. Popular foods include pan de Muerto, a flatbread that can be cooked in a variety of shapes and is occasionally decorated in white icing to mimic twisted bones, & pan de ánimas, often known as spirit bread.
The Day of The Dead in Spain is celebrated with elaborate costumes, a dead parade, and scathing poetry. The Day of the Dead symbology is heavily influenced by the skull, from clothing to lyrical language.
Spanish for “skull,” Calaveras developed into a genre of brief, witty, and biting poetry in the late 1700s and early 1800s. They occasionally ridicule the living, and this is now considered art in print, on TV, and on the radio.
Millennia prior to the Day of the Dead celebrations, the Aztecs used skulls to commemorate the dead.
In Spanish culture, Mexicans like wearing alebrijes, fantastical animals created by fusing many species together, such as a dragon’s body with wolf’s eyes and bat wings, or a lizard with wings or horns.
Alebrijes are fantastical animals that adorn parades all around the nation.
Most notably, before going to a parade or celebration, people dress up like skeletons and have their faces painted to resemble skulls.
Some others dress in shells to increase the din. But the skulls represent more than just the dead souls.
5. How Are the Altars (Ofrendas) Built?
The altars are an essential component of the celebration because they direct the souls of the deceased to their final resting spot and include objects that are designed to please and honour them.
On the altars, there are images of the four elements. Visitors have access to water to quench their thirst, fire in the form of lamps, soil in the form of food and other specific supplies for the departed, and air in the form of exquisite paper cut into designs.
Salt is sometimes put on altars because it is thought to aid the deceased on the passage to the afterlife.
6. Colors and Their Meaning On día De Muertos
The Day of The Dead Festival in Spain depends on the colour. What the colours stand for is as follows:
- Black: Death
- Yellow: Luminosity
- Orange: The colour of the sunlight and the marigold flowers, which serve as a compass to lead the deceased back to life.
- White: Hope, purity, and light
- Purple: Anger
- Red: The life-giving blood
- Pink: Joy and festivity
7. Altars of The Day of The Dead in Spain
One of the key components of the Day of the Dead is altars or “ofrendas” in Spanish. To formally welcome ghosts into the world of the living, people erect them in graves or at home.
Family members strew offerings over their altars. Each is unique in its significance and purpose, bringing a riot of colour to homes and graves alike.
Family photos and candles will be placed on an altar in memory of the deceased. It’s possible to leave toys for kids.
The tabletop on which the altar is placed may be covered with a vividly coloured oil cloth decorated with natural and classical images, with pictures and other personal belongings placed on top.
Water, food, and maybe some of the deceased’s favourite beverages are positioned lower down on the altar to satiate the thirst of the departed following their trip from the other side (such as tequila or mezcal).
To assist in directing the souls to the human world and their last resting place, lovely marigold petals and flowers are spread to create paths to the altar.
The petals of the marigold symbolize the brittleness of life, and it is thought that its perfume draws the spirits of the deceased.
In fact, marigolds are referred to as “flor de Muerto,” or the deceased person’s flower. Additionally, incense is burned to cleanse the environment and offer prayers to the afterlife.
8. What Is the Ritual when Someone Dies in Mexico City?
In Mexico, the 24-48 hours following a death are spent with family and friends. People can bring gifts, as well as food and drink available.
After a burial, there can be gatherings that resemble wakes, when people commemorate the dead and offer solace to one another.
There might even be echoes of Day of the Dead celebrations.
9. Dia De Los Muertos: For The Dead and The Living
The Aztecs are credited for creating the Da de Los Muertos celebration, which is visually stunning and rich in cultural heritage.
The holiday gives individuals a chance to build a bridge between both the alive and the deceased and to uphold the notion that death is an inevitable aspect of life.
In order to respect and remember their departed loved ones, people would go to extreme lengths. Because the celebrations take place with loved ones who are still alive, these activities seem more meaningful.
The Day of the Dead, also known as Dia de Los Muertos, is an important celebration of both death and life despite what it may seem like.
In fact, the festival was acknowledged as a component of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2008. Contrary to popular belief, Dia de Los Muertos is not Halloween’s equivalent in Mexico.
Even though the two yearly celebrations overlap, they have quite different customs and ways of being observed.
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