Day of the Dead dates back over 3000 years to Aztec times and is being celebrated this week. Symbolized by ‘La Calavera Catrina’, a lady with an elaborate and colourful costume with a skull for a face, it might appear frightening at first but this is not the purpose. In fact she represents what would have been the Goddess of the Dead in Aztec times. She protects the dead and was later used as a satirical image to mock the upper classes. Nowadays her image is prolific throughout Mexico and many people dress up as her as part of the Day of the Dead celebrations.
Day of the Dead is all about remembering deceased family members and friends. Graves are decorated with photographs of the deceased, gifts, sugar skulls and countless marigolds, thought to guide the soul to the alter to receive their gifts and be with their family. Candles are lit and families gather often spending the entire night at the grave. There’s tears, music, laughter and a fair bit of Mezcal flowing.
If you’re traveling in Latin America during this time you will notice that the graveyards have been decorated. I was lucky enough to be in Oaxaca, Mexico to experience Day of the Dead for myself. I found it a very moving experience. Like most festivals in Latin America it was colourful and welcoming. With the help of a local guide me and my tour group were able to visit a cemetery and were offered food and drink and invited to join in the singing. An experience I don’t think any of us will ever forget.
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico it would be well worth combining it with Day of the Dead for an authentic insight into Mexican culture. Ask us about our Mexico trips for further information.