Celebrate Life, Dia de los Muertos

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I am so touched by the stories that customers have shared, some bring their children for a cultural and educational experience. And for others, it’s to teach their children another way to cope, in particular for one father, bringing his son helped him grieve the loss of his grandfather, and now it’s a tradition that the child looks forward to adding items every year to the ofrenda! It’s a beautiful and artistic way to celebrate the life of a loved one that has passed.

This 3minute video depicts a beautiful &touching dia de los muertos summary: http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/dia-de-los-muertos-short-film

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What is Day of the Dead ( a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and acknowledged around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.

The departed children, los angelitos, are remembered on November first while November second focuses on the departed adults. There is nothing somber or macabre about the event. The dead come as spirits from another world to be with their living relatives and to visit in their homes. They do not come to scare or haunt as we believe Halloween spirits do.

The United States tradition of All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, came from an ancient pre-Christian Celtic festival of fire, known as Samhain. This popular celebration originated in England, Scotland and Wales. October 31st was an important day to the Celts, and among other things was dedicated to the end of the harvest. It was said that during Samhain banshees and witches were known to steal children, destroy crops, and bring terror to the entire population. At the same time, the spirits of loved ones visited their families looking for warmth and affection. Bonfires were built to help guide the spirits home. In Europe, around 750 AD, the Church instituted November first as All Saints Day realizing that it must eliminate or assimilate pagan rites. In the 13th century, All Souls Day was established on November 2 honoring those souls of the Catholic faith who had passed away. In Medieval times, traditions included decorating graves, all night vigils, and special church services to remember and honor the dead. These traditions were prevalent throughout Europe, and the Spanish conquistadores, colonists and priests, who came to the Americas brought these customs with them. REFERENCE

Long before the Spanish arrived in America, the belief in an afterlife was present in Mesoamerica. We know this from information contained in the archeological record, the surviving codices, and from early Colonial manuscripts. According to the beliefs of the Nahua people (Aztecas, Chichimecas, Tlaxcaltecas, and Toltecas) life was seen as a dream. Only in dying did a human being truly awake. For them the distinction between life and death was not so absolute. In Nahautl, the indigenous language of the peoples of the valley of Mexico, there is much poetic speculation concerning the afterlife.

How to celebrate?
There are several components to building the ‘ofrenda’ offering to the deceased. Often in Mexico and Latin America, still today the family will visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried and bring them offerings. The main offerings given across the board, rich or poor, are the marigolds, or Flor del Muerto – Flower of the Dead. The flowers are thought to bring out the dead souls to feast on the offerings laid on the table or headstone.

The marigold came with Spanish traders to Africa and Europe. Wanting to disconnect it from the flower’s past, the breeding programs held in Africa and Europe gave this great flower the name of “African” and “French” marigold. After the flower was disconnected from its past reputation as the flower of death, it was introduced into the gardens of the world.

Today the flowers are prized by gardeners the world over for their long lived blooms that love the heat of summer. They are to be found in gardens across the world, a testament to the wonder of this wonderful flower of the dead.

The marigold most commonly used in Dia de los Muertos celebrations is the Targetes erecta or African Marigold, otherwise known as cempasúchil or flower of the dead. They will  remove the petals from the flower and spread them on the ground to make a path to the house and to the grave.  The pungent aroma of the marigold and the bright color of the yellow petals will guide the spirit to the home altar (ofrenda) and to the cemetery.  Marigolds are also fashioned into elaborate arches for display on altars and graves. In some villages, people leave a trail of marigolds from their front door to their loved one’s grave, so that the deceased may easily find their way back home again. The attractive scent of the marigold is said to draw them back to earth for the yearly Dia de los Muertos reunion.
Since prehispanic times, this plant has had medicinal purposes and it is thought to cure stomach ache, parasites, diarrhea, liver illnesses, vomiting, and toothache among other illnesses. The flowers are still used in many areas to cure these and other ailments. All of these illnesses are said to be cured by a tea made from the flowers, eating the flowers, or wearing the flowers in a pouch around the neck. http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/245/#ixzz3pJjEDMxo

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Salt and water are also essential; they are set to quench the thirst of the souls, tired from their long trip. Water also purifies and cleanses.

Incense, Copal, is burned and thought to elevate  prayers to God. Pan de Muerto the breads are placed on shrines and altars as offerings for the deceased and are given to visitors arriving for the celebration. Pan de Muerto is shaped like a funeral mound…with a few extra bumpy protrusions. The ball and strips of dough decorating the top of the loaf represent the skull and limbs of the muerto peeking through the top of the mound. We like this summary best: The bones represent the disappeared one (difuntos or difuntas) and there is normally a baked tear drop on the bread to represents tears for the living. The bones are represented in a circle to portray the circle of life. It is sweet, fluffy, decorated in sugar, and most traditionally flavored with anise, cinnamon, and/or an orange zest flavor.  pandemrtoimage1

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Papel picado is present as a symbol of wind/air, candles to light the way of the deceased.  And favorite items, foods, beverages, hobbies are also commonly displayed on the altar of the deceased.
The most familiar symbol of Dia de los Muertos may be the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which appear everywhere during the holiday: in candied sweets, as parade masks, as dolls. Calacas and calaveras are almost always portrayed as enjoying life, often in fancy clothes and entertaining situations.

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Mini Calaca
All of these items (even paper marigolds) can be found at El Burrito Mercado, every year we build an ofrenda and keep it on display through mid November. We hope you will consider building your own ofrenda and partake in this colorful celebration of life!

Looking for Dia de los Muertos events?
Saturday Oct. 24th Community Event at Wellstone Center (located behind our parking)
Sunday Oct. 25th, Dia de los Muertos Celebrations Minnesota History Center I will be presenting Botanas Mexicanas (Mexican Snacks)!)
Sunday Nov. 1 Mariachi Estrella 2-4pm, and 1:30pm for decorating fun, check out our ofrenda, shop, eat, explore the one stop shop for Dia de los Muertos! www.mnhs.org/event/502

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Milissa

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