Yesterday I wandered around the streets, approaching little children, offering them sweeties. And I didn’t get arrested! And all because Day of the Dead (Dias del Muerte) has arrived! The kids of course were with their parents, and me with my senorita…it’s all just a traditional festival!
Day of the Dead happens on November 1st, although I find the whole date thing a little confusing. It is more than just a day, with preparations, celebrations and offerings occuring from the 31st October to the 2nd November, although the 1st is the one that is a public holiday.
There are several parts to Day of the Dead, a ritual that has been taking place in Mexico for about 3,000 years, since the times of the Aztec and Mayan Empires. It is all about remembering the dead, and different people do different things. Many go to cemeteries and tidy the graves of dead relatives, laying flowers, and will go at night time to sit by the graves for a few hours, or even throughout the night. They will lay offerings of food and the favourite things of the dead person on the grave.
Some people just create Ofrendas in their homes. Little displays with candles, candies, photos and orange Marigold petals. At night they leave food and water, and maybe pillows and blankets too. They believe the spirits of their dead ones will come and eat and drink the spirit essence of the offerings. When you eat the food the next day it apparantly has no smell, taste or nutritional value because the spirits have consumed those!
Kids have their own tradition of course! Dressing up as traditional Mexican Day of the Dead skeletons, or nowadays as any one from a Hollywood horror movie, and wandering the streets with pumpkin shaped buckets to collect treats. They don’t knock on doors though…a bit risky here!
We bought a couple of boxes of lollipops and strolled around the Zocalo for a couple of hours taking in all the displays and checking out the costumes. It really is a big festival here, almost on a par with Christmas and Easter. Everyone makes a big effort and the city is covered in decorations. In the Zocalo, every ‘delegacion’ (borough/district or what have you) makes an Ofrenda to display. Some were pretty good! There was one that was really cheap and crap, and I wish I could remember where it was from!
Still it was all a good evening! And we survived the various monsters, vampires and werewolves.