A two-day national holiday to honor and remember our love ones who departed this world before us.
Even though this holiday is officially a two-day celebration, the whole ritual takes a little bit longer. Everything starts days before November 1st. When people go to the market to buy what their love ones liked the most when they were alive, all the ingredients to prepare a mole or the cigarette package that she loved.
Of course, the altar has some elements that you can not miss, such as the candles, the cempasuchil flowers or the sugar skulls with the name of your relative or friend that will return from the underworld.
The main idea behind the holiday is that we expect our love ones to come back from the death in those two days, first the youngest ones (November 1st), followed by the adults (November 2nd). Some people stay awake the whole night dancing and singing, some at home and others at the bottom of the grave. We believe we are surrounded by our friends and relatives that died. Because we believe they are visiting us and, of course, we are great hosts, we set the table with everything they liked while living. After the festivity we eat all those delicious dishes, sweets, and snacks.
The altar can be dedicated to one person or many, even dogs are invited to the party.
Mexican people is very spiritual and devoted, the day of the death is not the exception, in fact, it is one of the most important rituals we have in the whole country. As we mentioned before, Mexico is a mix of the mix, that´s why you will find different altars, meanings and themes depending the state you are, however, there are some musts that you will find everywhere.
The candles guide our love ones during the journey, normally placed simulating a path for them to find their way from and back the underworld. The same purpose has the flowers, that drive the souls with their intense smells and vivid colors. We can see this in the Disney Movie “Coco”.
I am still impressed by this movie, the designing and production teams captured Mexican people and customs almost perfectly. How they portrayed the traditional Mexican family, the streets and atmosphere; I haven´t seen a movie like that before, full of realism.
The design of the altar do not have any rules, your final choice depends entirely on your own personal taste and the space you have available, however the altar normally has 2 or 3 steps, this is because we believe the underworld is also arranged in that way (in steps). Our prehepatic merriment also includes the cross, this element was introduced by the spaniels after the colonization and once again we see how the elements from two different worlds are fused harmoniously.
Last but not least, we cannot forget the picture of that friend or relative that we miss every day, otherwise they can´t cross from the underworld as Coco movie shows.