So Are We Going To Go Trick or Treating?

You’re in Mexico, you feed your dead, you don’t feed yourself
BY: MYRA MAINS

dead 2.jpgOn the day of the dead, Novemeber 1, people go to cemeteries to be with the souls of their departed loved ones and there they build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to summon the souls of the dead, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

The Mexican flower cempasúchitl, (we would call them marigolds), is the traditional flower used to honor the dead.  In modern Mexico the marigold is sometimes called Flor de Muerto (Flower of Dead). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or “the little angels”), and bottles of tequila, mezcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased’s favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with food such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto, (“bread of the dead”), candy skulls made of sugar, and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the “spiritual essence” of the ofrendas food, so though the celebrators eat the food themselves after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value. Pillows and blankets are left out so the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives. In many places people have picnics at the grave site, as well.

Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes which sometimes feature a Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, scores of candles, and an ofrenda. Traditionally, families spend some time around the altar, praying and telling anecdotes about the deceased. In some locations celebrants wear shells on their clothing, so when they dance, the noise will wake up the dead; some will also dress up as the deceased.

Public schools at all levels build altars with ofrendas, usually omitting the religious symbols. Government offices usually have at least a small altar, as this holiday is seen as important to the Mexican heritage.