I’m going to start this blog with a confession. I’ve lived in New Mexico for 26 years, and I’ve never been to a Dia de los Muertos celebration. On top of that, I didn’t know anything about it until I decided to write this blog.
I have friends who attend these kinds of celebrations every fall, and they post pictures of themselves with their makeup done as a skull accompanied by a beautiful fall background. I’ve always wondered what this was, but I’ve never asked.
There have been many things that I hadn’t done in all the years I’ve lived in the Land of Enchantment. I finally tried chicharrons for the first time three years ago, I’ve never been in a hot air balloon (don’t plan to anytime soon either), and I’ve never attended a Dia de los Muertos celebration.
What Is Dia De Los Muertos?
What is Dia de los Muertos? For those of us, like myself, who don’t speak Spanish, Dia de los Muertos translates to the Day of the Dead. It is believed that the gates of heaven open on this day and spirits could come back to visit their living loved ones. What a wonderful sentiment!
According to history.com, this day goes back about 3,000 years to pre–Columbian Mesoamerica. The Aztecs and other Nahua people of what is now central Mexico saw the universe as a giant circle, and death was part of the circle.
After death, it was believed that the soul travels to the Land of the Dead. During the course of several years, the soul would have to complete nine levels and would then arrive at Mictlán, the final resting place.
It’s believed that on Dia de los Muertos, the departed souls can come back to the mortal world and feast on food and drink, as well as dance and play music with their loved ones. The living family members would leave offerings of food and other offerings at either the gravesite of the deceased or ofrendas in the homes of the living. Families leave decorations of candles, marigolds and food for the deceased to enjoy during their time in the land of the living.
A Rich Cultural Tradition
There’s so much more to learn about this rich tradition and the culture behind it. It has left this blogger hungry to learn more. The Disney movie, “Coco,” helps to educate about Dia de los Muertos, and it paints the story in bright, beautiful colors. While I was watching “Coco,” I wondered what the significance was of marigolds. After a quick search through the trivia on IMDB, they say that the marigolds help to guide the deceased to the land of the living.
If you missed a Dia de los Muertos celebration this year, and you don’t want to wait until next year, you can still celebrate this week. You can still paint your face, make your own ofrenda or watch “Coco.” I plan on attending a celebration next year with my son, and I can’t wait to see what we learn and experience.