Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Day of the Dead

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!  Today is the start of the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, a day of remembrance of ancestral family members for those of Mexican descent.  Although this holiday is pagan in origin and even originally observed in the summer, it was later moved to its present date to coincide with the Christian triduum of All Saint's Eve, All Saint's Day, and All Soul's Day.

Día de los Muertos is often connoted with Halloween, but the holidays aren't actually that similar, aside from the shared subject of the dead.  Whereas Halloween looks upon spirits in a scary and sometimes malevolent way, Día de los Muertos is more like a supernatural memorial day.  Observers traditionally bring food and offerings and build decorative altars to the grave sites of their deceased relatives to encouraged these souls to connect back with the world of the living.  The dead are not looked upon with fear, but rather welcome, and these festive occasions sometimes take on a humorous tone.

As such, Día de los Muertos has a far more playful feel than today's societal look at Halloween.  The two holidays are linked by proximity and general subject matter, and it's nice to see Disneyland acknowledging the indirect relationship.  But it's important to recognize that the Day of the Dead is not in fact "Mexican Halloween," as some might suggest.

And now you know (if you didn't already).

An oblique view of the other side of the Dia de los Muertos display at Zocalo Park.

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