Dio De los Muertos
Date When Celebrated: November 1 and 2
Translated to English, this is "The Day of the Dead". In actuality, Dio De Los Muertos is not one, but two days spent in honor of the dead. The first day celebrates infants and children who have died. This is a group which is believed to have a special place in heaven, and are referred to as "Angelitos" or little angels. The second day is in honor of adults who have passed away.
While the culture in the U.S. is to shy away from discussions of death, Mexicans embrace death. They use Dio De Los Muertos as an opportunity to celebrate the death and the life of loved ones and friends they knew in this world. And it is a day of celebration, not a day of mourning. While not alone in the world in celebrating death, it is certainly uncommon and could make someone from the U.S. very uncomfortable. Note: Chinese also celebrate their dead in a similar manner.
Dio De Los Muertos was celebrated in late July and early August by Aztec Indians for thousands of years. When the Spaniards conquered Mexico in the 1500's, they looked upon this celebration as a pagan ritual. In an effort to eliminate it, they moved it to the date of All Saints and All Souls Day in November. The effort failed, and the Aztecs along with all Mexicans continue to celebrate the holiday.
On Dio De Los Muertos, people prepare a feast with many of the favorite dishes of lost loved ones. Pan de Muertos or "Bread of the Dead" is a traditional bread which is baked and eaten during this celebration. Mementos are set out of favorite things of the the ones who have passed away.
Visiting the cemetery is a popular tradition. At the cemetery, the tomb or burial plot is decorated. The cemetery visit is spent in a picnic environment. The air is filled with music from Mariachi bands while the scent of a wide variety of foods wafts through the air. Fireworks are also common.
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