Holiday Information: The Day Of The Dead (Dia De Los Muertos)

Explains Mexico's Dia De La Muerte. Ideas about how to celebrate, traditional celebrations, important tips for have a party.

Almost all cultures of the world have differing ideas and traditions that are tied in with the many milestones of life. To be sure, death (perhaps the biggest milestone of human life) is not as depressing and sad in some other countries as it is here in most parts of the United States.

Indeed, each year on November 2, as the monarch butterfly arrives to bring beauty to their land, Mexico and some other Hispanic countries celebrate their holiday, the Day of the Dead. This day-long ritual is an ancient festivity that joyfully celebrates both children and the dead. Far from a sad or mournful occasion, the Day of the Dead is a time of remembering the dead and rejoicing in their lives.

At the beginning of the holiday, most of the people of each town parade around, and traditionally some of them are carrying an open coffin with a smiling person in it. This is a "real" person, who is made up for this occasion. Already the tone is set for this holiday to be a joyous, even fun, day for everyone who is present. There are many different types of costumes, but many of the paraders are dressed up as ghosts and skeletons. As they walk through town on the parade route, the paraders all have oranges and other objects thrown to them as they walk by the marketers.

In the meantime, decorative and beautiful altars are carefully planned and made to honor each of the people who have died in the past year, and remember some of those who have died before that. These ornate altars are arranged in private homes, and they have photos of those who have died and are being celebrated displayed near them. Each year, the Day of the Dead celebration grows larger and the altars get bigger and more beautifully decorated.

Each altar is in three distinct tiers, and it is covered with candles - it is believed the more candles, the better the celebration. Many other symbolic objects are put on the altar by family members.

The day after the actual celebration, families of the dead go to the cemetery to tend to the graves of their loved ones. The family members come to the gravesite with special candles, flowers, fruit and other important and symbolic articles, which they leave at the grave site after remembering the person together.

Although the Day of the Dead holiday is one of rich tradition, in many areas of Mexico it has become a huge commercial holiday (akin to the celebration of Christmas in the United States.) Southern Mexico still celebrates in the traditional religious fashion. Some parts of the western United States have pockets of people who celebrate the observation, too.

The monarch butterfly is symbolic as being the spirit of those who have died. This insect is thought of as beautiful by people in all parts of the world, but it is an even-more special one to the people who celebrate the Day of the Dead, as they strive to honor those who have left this world.

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