The Day of the Dead is an incredible festival dating back to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic times to honor & remember loved ones who have passed on from this life. Although it is called “Day of the Dead”, the festivities actually cover multiple days.
In pre-Hispanic times many of Mexico’s ancient ethnic groups took part in cult rites & rituals associated with death; the Aztecs for example were one of the better-known groups for this. Mictecacíhuatl - Queen of Mictlān, the underworld, represented the beginning and the end of life. Folds in her abdomen are thought to represent multiple births and it is often thought that she was originally born and sacrificed as an infant to later become the mate of Miclantecuhtl. Together, these two rulers of the Mictlan (underworld) had power over all the souls dwelling there.
The arrival of the Spaniards ignited a union of the belief systems of old with the catholic religion that was new to Mexico at the time. Throughout the ages, some of these traditions have blossomed and become the modern-day religious festivities that we enjoy and see today. However, although the dates of the celebration were moved to coincide with Catholic All Saints Day, they still honor Mexico’s rich cultural past — the festive days being full of color, incredible flavors, lively music, and of course extended family & friends.
Contrary to popular belief, the Days of the Dead are not times in which to mourn, on the contrary, the life of loved ones is celebrated by their family and friends long after their death in fond and loving remembrance. Each region and community here have their own slightly varying traditions, uses and customs, but all-in-all how this day is celebrated has changed little since ancient times.
In most regions the celebrations begin on the 28th October when souls who died by accident, suddenly and/or violently are received back to the realm of the living. The 29th is the day that remember those who drowned. On October 30, it is said that the souls of those who do not have relatives who remember them arrive back (such as orphans). The 31st October marks the night of those who were never born or weren’t baptised. On the two most well-known and celebrated days; November 1st marks the night that the souls of the children arrive, followed by November 2nd the night where the souls of all other adults return. People will often stay awake late into the night with their loved ones welcoming back the souls of their ancestors.
However, depending on the region, the days of celebration can vary, in the Catholic religion, we focus on the 1st of November for All Saints and November 2 for the Faithful Dead. In order to receive the souls, the most representative elements to be found in peoples’ homes and meeting places are the altars full of offerings, where families will put the deceased’s favourite food, drinks & vices out in order to welcome them back.
We invite you to come and experience this touching and beautiful tradition in Mexico with Tours Peregrinos Mexico: your specialists in Catholic pilgrimages throughout Mexico. Come join in the festivities with us! Where the flavors, smells and colors of this beautiful country will stand out and adorn your memories for years to come.