To those who are not Mexican, the Days of the Dead activities may sound rather macabre, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact this festival demonstrates the average Mexican’s love and respect for their ancestors and those who have passed on.
It all stems from the ancient indigenous peoples of Mexico, who believed that the souls of the dead return each year to visit with their living relatives – to eat, drink and be merry. The event is held in graveyards across Mexico, allowing people to commune with deceased family members, not in a somber fashion, but with a joyful sense of reunion.
Deceased children (known as little angels) are remembered on November 1st (All Saints’ Day), while adults are remembered on November 2nd (All Souls’ Day). During the previous week, vendors set up stalls selling sugar candies in the shape of skeletons, skulls, coffins and tombs.
Families create altars in their homes, with flowers, candles, religious amulets and photographs of the dead. Adult graves are adorned with offerings of the deceased’s favorite possessions, foods, alcohol or cigarettes, and are profusely decorated with colorful flowers, particularly marigolds, which are believed to guide the spirits of loved ones home. Children’s graves have toys placed upon them, and are covered with colorful streamers and balloons.