Life around the world

Thursday, 22 March, 2012 - 12:22

Day of the Dead

by Emma Douty

Halloween – we all know the routine, right? Scary costumes: check. Big, orange pumpkins in the windows: check. Trick-or-treaters: check. Parties in the cemeteries: wait, really? Where on Earth does that happen?

Mexico, that’s where! It’s not just for one night, either. No, these Mexicans sure know a thing or two about partying. For what is referred to as Day of the Dead is actually two days' worth of Halloween celebrations in Mexico, from the 1st to the 2nd November, during which the entire country parties hard in remembrance of the departed. Considered one of the top festivals in the world, Day of the Dead is a spectacularly vibrant celebration, where children and adults alike pull out all the stops to create a fun-filled event that is both spooky and cheerful all at the same time.

It is believed that the souls of the deceased come back down to Earth for these two days (children on the 1st November, and adults on the 2nd), and so families welcome back their loved ones by setting up an altar to them, either in their homes, or in the cemeteries, and often in local restaurants or shops, too. These altars are decorated with orange marigold flowers, candles, photographs, and special Halloween features, such as playful skeleton figures and delicious sugar skulls. Amid these are placed the favourite food and drinks of those who have passed away, to be enjoyed in their honour, as well as special ‘dead bread’, made with dried fruits, and pumpkin soaked in honey. You can see why this festival turns out to be so delectable!

At night, people head to the streets, dressed in scary and outlandish costumes, to take part in the walking parade across town, dancing along with the marching bands. Music can be heard from all around, and the dancing doesn’t stop there. If you make your way to one of the cemeteries, you will find more of a party atmosphere there than anywhere else; the graveyard comes to life! Tombstones are decorated much like the altars, and everyone joins together around these to remember the lives of their loved ones and to make a toast to life itself.

It is this which is precisely the significance of the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico. By welcoming back the spirits of the dead, and in remembrance of them, the people celebrate life and all its vibrancy, through the wonderful Mexican tradition of eating, drinking, and dancing, making it the best fiesta in the world.

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Do you celebrate Halloween where you live? What do you think of the Day of the Dead?

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