El Día de los Muertos

By: Carla López, 9th Grade

“El Día de Muertos” is a Mexican celebration that takes place on November 2nd. It is most commonly known as that but in fact, we celebrate deceased kids on November 1st and deceased adults on November 2th. Basically, during this celebration, we honor our loved ones who are not with us anymore. 

“El Día de Muertos” comes from a long time ago. In the pre-Hispanic epoch, death was a basic element in culture. People would wrap dead bodies in a “petate”, which comes from Náhuatl and is a kind of bed made with palm leaf, and then their family organized a party to guide the defunct to the “Mictlán”, which is the place where people believe dead people arrive to after a long and hard way. They also colocated the defunct´s favorite food in the belief they might be hungry. 

Specifically on the exact day of “El Día de Muertos” it is believed it´s when our deceased loved ones come to visit us. It´s when death doesn’t represent an absence but an alive presence. This is seen more in a way of a reunion with someone you haven’t seen in a while, that’s why we do an altar with offerings for them. 

Calaveritas

There are three different things called “calaveritas”. The sugar ones, which are normally used as decoration in the altar and these are in the shape of a head of a skull decorated with colors and other edible things around it. The sugar “calaveritas” remind people of death, the transition from the terrestrial to the mystic. The other types of calaveritas are made from foamy and these calaveritas are basically a skeleton made of paper and foamy which you can decorate however and from whoever you want. You can even do a calaverita from Captain America. The last type of calaveritas are literary and they are poetic components that talk mostly about death but in a fun way. 

Pan de Muerto

“El Pan de Muerto” is a kind of bread that is only eaten and found between October-November. The bread is mostly made of sugar, sesame, and butter. You can eat it with chocolate, cream, cajeta, or nuts. The center of the bread represents the skull, the taps are dedicated to Gods like; Tezcatlipoca, Tláloc, Quetzalcoatl, and Xipetotec. They also represent the bones and cardinal points. The circular shape of the bread symbolizes death and life.

Xoloitzcuintle

A Xoloitzcuintle is a type of dog which is known for being an endemic animal in Mexico and for its important part on “El Día de Muertos”. Normally they don’t have hair and most of the dogs have black or brown fur. It is believed that this dog guides our soul through the correct way to get to Mictlán. The legend says these dogs carried people on their loins to cross rivers. They could refuse to help them if the person had been disrespectful to other dogs in their life. The Xoloitzcuintles were also related to the God of death, Xolotl. 

Altar

“El altar de Muertos” is the most significant and important thing in this Mexican celebration. We do this to keep in our memories our loved ones who have already passed away. The altar has 7 levels, each representing a stair to heaven. The table will normally have 2 different levels, these levels symbolize heaven and Earth. Some families make a third one representing the purgatory. Some fundamental things we always put are; water which represents purity, candles which are the light that guides in both worlds, incense which drives away bad spirits, the flower cempasuchil attracts the spirits to visit us and find the correct way, a cross is normally done with salt or cempasuchil, a photograph of the defunct, their favorite food and the calaveritas de azúcar are also used in the altar. 

I hope that with this information you now understand how important and beautiful this celebration is for us, Mexican people. Everyone celebrates “El Día de Muertos” in different ways but it’s always exciting for us.

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