All over the world people hold festivals to honour and remember the dead. This is not creepy or macabre but rather a celebration of memories, history and people. This is definitely a festival I would like to go to one day, as it challenges the western idea of death as being scary and death as the end of one’s life.
In Mexico this festival is particularly important. This celebration starts at midnight on the 31st of October and continues until the 2nd of November. The traditional term for it is “El día de los muertos” . These festivals are abundant with images of death which do not scare people but make they remember those who died. Mainly children who return on the 1st (their souls visit earth), followed by adults on the 2nd. A strange but interesting sight well worth seeing is a graveyard at night during this period. Family members often take food, alcohol and candles to the family members graves and enjoy a mini feast around the grave and leave offerings on the grave. These include wreaths of marigold, which are thought to attract the souls of the dead toward the offerings, and toys brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels) and bottles of tequila, mezcal, pulque or atole for adults. People also dress up and hold night long vigils. Traditional foods are cooked such as pan de muerto (bread of the dead), which can conceal a miniature skeleton.
Most people today have seen some variation of a sugar skull. Few people know that it dates back to the Mayan times and that people used to keep skulls as trophies and display them during rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.Sugar skulls, inscribed with the names of the deceased on the forehead, are often eaten by a relative or friend. Today they are popular as tattoo’s and Halloween masks.