As you can see in our list of November holidays, there are many countries across the world that observe All Saint’s Day (on the 1st) and All Soul’s Day (on the 2nd) as national holidays. The former is a celebration to honor all Christian saints, particularly those who do not already have a day commemorating them, and the latter is a day to remember and pray for all those who have passed away with faith in the church. Both holidays are associated with Western Christian theology, particularly in historically Catholic countries. Although both of these holidays are observed by Christians around the globe, the traditions and symbols associated with each can vary quite a bit in different regions of the world. One example was highlighted last month; another, probably one of the most recognized in the Western world, is The Day of the Dead in Mexico.
Many countries observe these holidays with a somber tone to reflect on loved ones who have passed, but in Mexico Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) is more of a joyous period where the memory of the dead are celebrated. Many Mexicans make plans for the holiday throughout the year, including collecting goods to be offered to the dead.
Here is a sample of traditions that are often observed during this time:
- Visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of loved ones. These graves are often elaborately ornamented with flowers, photographs, and food (such as skulls made of sugar or chocolate). Toys are left for deceased children and alcohol for adults. Candlelight vigils, often upbeat affairs accompanied by singing, are also common to celebrate lost family members.
- Bake and eat Pan de Muerto or Bread of the Dead. Frequently eaten at gravesites or alters, the bread is a sweet roll that can be decorated with bone-like skulls and skeletons made out of sugar.
- Build alters or shrines at various places such as homes, schools or government offices. These alters are used as centerpieces for places to pray and tell stories about those remembered.
- Participate in a local parade. Many communities across Mexico have jubilant processions that begin in the town center and end in the local cemetery, where residents dress up in ghost costumes or have painted faces.