El Día de los Muertos
We all come from different places and different cultures. You may not agree with the traditions of where you come from, but it’s important to at least be aware of them. I’d like to share one of mine with you.
I’m Hispanic and I continue to follow my Mexican and Puerto Rican customs out of love and respect. Like a typical Hispanic person, I am Roman Catholic, I value family and music, and I am very familiar with El Día de los Muertos, also known as The Day of the Dead.
Celebrating our dead ancestors is not only important because it keeps their memories alive, but it also gives us hope that we won’t be forgotten when we’re gone. Despite the skulls and death, El Día de los Muertos is a happy and beautiful holiday.
Day of the Dead Traditions
Many people make sugar skulls to identify and honor each deceased family member. The skulls are then decorated with paint and frosting, jewels, fruit and feathers to create a cheerful atmosphere. This symbolizes the belief that we are dreaming in life and truly awake when we die. It’s a celebration of the continuation of life, even though our ancestors’ bodies are no longer living.
The altar is the center-point for each family, and can be set up inside the home or at the cemetery. This ritual is celebrated differently depending on where you are, but the point is to choose a central area for the spirits to meet. The altar usually incorporates the four elements of nature: earth, wind, water, and fire.
Day of the Dead Alter
- Earth is represented by crops. People leave a feast of fruits and vegetables for the souls to eat when they arrive.
- Wind is usually represented by something that moves easily if air is blown near it, such as tissue paper.
- Water is offered in a container for the souls to quench their thirst.
- Fire can be found by candle. Each burning candle represents a soul, and any extra candles represent forgotten souls to ensure all the deceased are recognized.
Day of the Dead parades can be found in Mexico and parts of the United States. Dancing, live music and dining are all typical activities that occur during a celebration. If you ever find yourself near a celebration site, don’t be afraid to participate. The opportunity to witness other cultures’ traditions is one I wouldn’t pass up.
Day of the Dead Art
Portrait by Sylvia Ji
Sylvia Ji is one of my favorite artists. Her work is feminine with shadows of beauty, decay and power. She seems dedicated to mixing her techniques with cultures different from her own. The exploratory approach she takes is admirable and the paintings she produces are breath-taking.
Calavera Catrina by Jose Posada
Jose Guadalupe Posada was a Mexican engraver and illustrator in the late 1800s. Although he worked on many projects with different job titles,he’s most famous for his calaveras (Day of the Dead skulls) and humorous paintings of skeletons interacting with the living.
Sugar Skull Tattoo
Artists everywhere are embracing death. I was pleasantly surprised at how many tattoos, paintings and sculptures I found that were created by non-Hispanic artists. An area of expression that I’ve come to love is skeleton make-up. People are so much creative. The concepts, shadowing and color are endless! I could look at this stuff all day.
Thanks for taking some time to learn more about the Day of the Dead. Please enjoy more artistic ways to experience one of my favorite holidays with the photos below. What is one of your favorite holidays that isn’t so popular in the U.S.?
- Imperial Trio by CaptainMagnificent on Etsy. See?! The Day of the Dead is even mixed with American pop culture icons. How cool!