Today, Mr. M and I walked to a farmers’ market held in the garden area of a large nearby hotel. We don’t usually attend this particular market because it mainly specializes in Baja grown wines from the Guadalupe valley. The wines are well known and apparently wonderful, but Mr. M and I don’t drink wine so it is lost on us.
The reason we went today is because they were sponsoring a free Dias de Los Muertos, or Days of the Dead, celebration, including dancers, costumed participants, and an Altar contest. In Mexico, Halloween is not recognized like it is in the US, although some of the more savvy kids here are catching on to the idea. But November first and second are big celebrations here.
November first is the day families remember Los Angelitos , deceased children of the family, and November second celebrates deceased adult relatives. It is not a morbid idea here. The traditional Mexican belief is that there are three deaths: the first when the body physically dies, the second when the body is put into the earth, and the third is when there is no one to remember the deceased. That is why it is so important to celebrate the lives of family members who have passed on.
The days at the end of October are spent cleaning and decorating the graves of the dead. Altars may be set up in the family home. The altar usually has 4 to 7 layers and is colorfully decorated with playful skeletons called Calaveras, which often represent the favorite activities of the deceased. Objects placed on the altar can include decorated sugar skulls, pan de muertro, a sweet bread, everyday objects with special meaning, candles, incense, photographs, and especially, a special marigold called cempasuchil. Anything that might please the deceased can be added.
The celebration we attended today was a lot of fun! Here are some of the Altar contest entries:
Here is a closer photo of them:
These girls were having a good time pretending to be dead!