What is Day of the Dead a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and acknowledged around the world. The holiday focuses on celebrating the life of those that have passed, to pray for them, and help support their spiritual journey. We celebrate their life and support their journey so they can rest in peace.
Traditionally, the departed children or babies are remembered on November 1, (Dia de los Inocentes), and November 2 focuses on the departed adults (aka All Souls Day). There is nothing somber or scary about the holiday. 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. Dia de los Muertos is a special and unique holiday, it’s a great opportunity to expose yourself or your children to learn about other cultures. I’ve listed at the end of this blog several activities and events around the twin cities that you can participate or attend. This video does an amazing job of depicting the spirit of Dia de muertos in a 3min video, watch http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/dia-de-los-muertos-short-film
How to celebrate Dia de los Muertos?
Building an ofrenda is the traditional and most common way to remember and honor a dear one that has passed. Some also go the tombstone of the deceased and decorate the ofrenda and celebrate right at the cemetary, in Mexico this is common, family and friends gather and sing, eat, and remember the deceased in a joyous manner.
If you are going to build an ofrenda, an altar to entice the deceased to come visit, traditionally, there are several components to include in building the ‘ofrenda’ (the “offerings”) . One of the most common elements are 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
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. Pan de Muerto will be available starting this weekend October 8 in our panaderia (bakery)
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.
All of these items can be found at El Burrito Mercado, every year we build an ofrenda and keep it on display through mid November. This year our ofrenda is for Juan Gabriel,he passed away recently and he was one of my favorite Mexican artists, we included album covers and the guitar, symbolic of his love and music talent. Our creative Resident Artist & Decorator, Denisea Elsola does an amazing job every year, she is so creative, visit us and get inspired to build an artistic ofrenda. We hope you will consider building your own ofrenda and partake in this colorful celebration of life!
If you are looking for Dia de los Muertos activities, here are several options:
QUE EN PAZ DESCANSEN NUESTROS QUERIDOS ESTRELLAS.
Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos a unique holiday celebrated in Mexico that focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. In Mexico, especially Oaxaca, this holiday is celebrated still in the most traditional manner. There is an abundance of heritage and history in Oaxaca and Dia de los Muertos is the most celebrated there in its traditional manner, here is information about the celebrations in Oaxaca http://oaxacalive.com/muertos.htm The tradition is also celebrated in other parts of Mexico, and over the past several years also into USA. However, in the states, Dia de los Muertos has become very trendy and appreciated more for its unique and artistic nature of the decor and oddly, attractive eeriness. Many people still do not understand the meaning of it and because of the skulls assume it something with an evil or halloween correlation, and as a matter of fact, it is a beautiful way to celebrate those that have passed, and it precedes the Catholic religious dates of All Souls Day & All Saints Day.
The holiday is also celebrated in other Latino countries, in Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones.
Dia de los Muertos is a holiday I’m glad to see has earned it’s way to this north of the states, it has gained popularity and is a cultural holiday many are curious to learn more about. Dia de los Muertos holiday is transferred into a culmination of artistic creativity and celebrations that are now expressed in so many unique and inventive ways, both in mainstream markets and chain stores like Target to individual interpretation art.
In summary, the holiday is known for its unique traditions with traces to the indigenous, the basic celebration entails the following:
- Family members often clean and decorate the graves of loved ones on Dia de los Muertos.
- In addition to celebrations, the dead are honored on Dia de los Muertos with ofrendas—small, personal altars honoring one person.
- Ofrendas, like an ‘altar, often have flowers, candles, food, drinks, photos, and personal mementos of the person being remembered, and this is where one will also add calaveras, catrinas, calacas papel picado, and other dia de los muertos arts. http://archive.azcentral.com/ent/dead/glossary/
At El Burrito Mercado every year we feature the many Mexican artists beautiful dia de los muertos pieces throughout our store, we hand select all the items in our visits to Mexico. We have everything you need to celebrated dia de los muertos, we are your one stop shop Dia de los Muertos!
We also build an ofrenda, this year we chose to remember Robin Williams
These are the most important and traditional components for building your own ofrenda:
What & why the Sugar Skulls?
Sugar skulls are exactly that- skull-shaped sugar. Traditional sugar skulls are made from a granulated white sugar mixture that is pressed into special skull molds. The sugar mixture is allowed to dry and then the sugar skull is decorated with icing, feathers, colored foil and more. While the ingredients of sugar skulls are edible (with the exception of the non-edible decorations you may add) the skulls are generally used for decorative purposes. However some small sugar skulls that are made with basic icing are intended to be consumed. On November 1 (All Souls Day) small sugar skulls are placed for children that have passed, and replaced with larger, more decorative skulls on November 2 to represent adults. At El Burrito Mercado we sell premade & decorated sugar skulls. Here is a recipe for making your own sugar skulls.
PAN DE MUERTO
This sweet bread is eaten by the families of the deceased during Dia de los Muertos, and placed on the altar. The Pan de Muerto is a made into a round shape and and extra dough is twisted and designed into decorations resembling bones which is place on top of the bread in a criss cross shape. The circular shape symbolizes the circle of life, and the bones decoration represents the dead (bones of the dead). The bread is baked, glazed and decorated with colored sugar or sesame. Make your own Pan de Muerto recipe here or buy it already prepared at El Burrito Mercado, or you can call and order your own customized pan de muerto in the shape of a person and we can write the name of the deceased on it for your ofrenda.
Cempasúchil, The Marigold and Day of the Dead
The ancient celebrations honored Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of the dead and death. The Aztecs believed that the smell could wake the souls of the dead to bring them back for the festival. Read more: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/245/#ixzz3GhbMHAV4
As well as water (to quench their thirst after the long journey), candles (to light their way), and papel picado (to represent wind).
To celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Minnesota, consider attending our dinner on November 2 and also these other activities throughout the Twin Cities: