Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is perhaps one of the biggest and most colourful festivals in Mexico. On November 2nd people come together to honour and celebrate the lives of their departed loved ones.
The celebration of the Day of the Dead – which is actually a week of festivities is a vital part of Mexican culture which embraces death in meaningful and positive ways. It is said that during the Day of the Dead celebration week, the dead will visit their friends and relatives. One of the ways honour the dead is through the creation of colourful altars brimming with photos, candles, mementos and offerings. Rather than being morbid, theis time is actually really quite joyous, full of ritual and celebration.
Day of the Dead originated in the 16th century fusion of the Aztec belief in death as a part of the cycle of life. They often held rituals and made offerings to the goddess Mictecacihuatl (The Lady of the Dead). When the Spanish conquered Mexico they integrated the festivities into Catholic celebrations for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
In more recent times, although there are still catholic masses and prayers to honour saints and the dead, nowadays the festival has more of a carnival feel rather than spiritual. Not sure how I feel about that!
Last night we were at a dinner party talking about the festival and I was surprised to learn that, unlike most fun festivals around here, there isn’t a parade to honour the day in San Miguel de Allende – probably because many of the locals honor the spiritual side instead. Clearly after watching Spectre last year I had assumed that there would be massive parades rather like the opening scene of the movie. Funnily enough, the movie has had such an impact that this year – for the first time – a parade was held in Mexico City yesterday.
Today, we headed out to explore one of our favourite haunts – Fabrica La Aurora – a local art centre housed in an old textile factory. Brimming with art galleries, boutiques and fab places to eat, it’s a great way to spend a few hours. Today, each gallery had altars honouring their dead. The largest was in the entrance where the departed founders and local artists were honored with a huge colourful display!
Such a gorgeous wealth of colour and so very moving to recognise that people take time out each year to celebrate death…and in doing so we celebrate LIFE.