Historical beliefs

Believer or skeptic, how methods of spiritual communication came about is an interesting subject. Here we look at beliefs of days gone by and the methods used to protect or communicate.

Day of the dead

Posted by Cally on Sunday, October 4, 2009 Under: History

The day of the dead is a special holiday celebrated each year to honour the dead, involving parties, feasts and songs; traditionally this day is celebrated in Mexico

Unlike holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, where we remember those who died fighting for our country, the day of the dead brings together the living and the dead for a massive celebration to remember the dead and keep them happy for another year.

The official day of the dead (el dia de los muertos) is November 2nd, all souls day. However festivities begin on October 31st (Halloween or all hallows eve). The women of each family clean house make candles and cook large quantities of chicken, tortillas, hot chocolate, sweet corn stew called atole and a special bread baked into the shapes of little animals. The men build small clay alters onto which they put offerings of food and toys to angelitos which are the little children of the family who have passed. Yellow marigolds surround the alter as yellow was the colour of death before the Spanish conquest. They also adorn the alters with pictures of the deceased and pictures of the families patron saints. They believe that at midnight while they are praying the angelitos come and enjoy their food and play with the toys and then leave.


The next day, all saints day, the children enjoy the food prepared for the angelitos while the adults prepare an even bigger feast for the older family members that have passed who will arrive near dawn the next morning. The older deceased have a larger alter that is covered in brightly coloured marzipan skulls and bones. On the skulls names and mottos are written, up until the early 20th century real skulls where dug up, used for the festival and then reburied under the local priests supervision.

Later on in the day, the local priest visits the villager’s homes and offers prayers and blessings for the deceased. Neighbours will visit each share memories and swap stories of their dead relatives, who they believe have now gathered to listen to them talk, No dead soul is forgotten as they may become sad or vengeful, so they take great care to remember everyone.

This goes on all night and culminates in a mass at about 8 the next morning, all souls day, which is believed to be the time the dead return to their graves. After a day of rest everybody heads down to the cemetery where they sing songs, say prayers and share one last meal with the dead by having a picnic over their graves. I know that this all sounds a tad strange but the Mexicans have the view that the dead would want to have fun to so they drink strong alcohol, have fun-fair rides and eat candy bones and coffins. I think this is quite a good way to celebrate someone’s life and show that they are still with us if not in body but in soul.

In : History 

Tags: skulls day of the dead mexico angelitos