Day of the Dead Altares Del Mundo A Celebration of Remembrance
The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) in Spanish is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage, however it has become increasingly popular in United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died.
Through the creation of altars, known as Ofrenda, and other acts of kindness, the living offer their love and respect for those who have passed on.
The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. All Souls' Day is also known as the Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed The custom of setting apart a special day for intercession for the faithful departed is very old. But the celebration of general intercession on November 2 was first established by Saint Odilo of Cluny (d. 1048) at his monastery of Cluny in 998.
The decree ordaining the celebration was printed and from Cluny the custom spread to the other houses of the Cluniac order, which became the largest and most extensive network of monasteries in Europe. The celebration was soon adopted in several dioceses in France, and spread throughout the Western Church. It was accepted in Rome only in the fourteenth century. While November 2 remained the liturgical celebration, in time the entire month of November became associated in the Western Catholic tradition with prayer for the departed; lists of names of those to be remembered being placed in the proximity of the altar on which the sacrifice of the mass is offered. The ritual of Dia de los Muertos, as we know it, has experienced a number of transformations in the last 500 years due to Spanish influence.
The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous peoples such as the: Olmec Zapotec Mixtec Mexican Aztec Maya Tontac Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2500–3000 years. In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.
In most regions of Mexico, November 1st honors deceased children and infants, November 2nd was for deceased adults. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1st mainly as "Día de los Inocentes" (Day of the Innocents) but also as "Día de los Angelitos" (Day of the Little Angels) and November 2nd as "Día de los Muertos" or "Día de los Difuntos" (Day of the Dead).
Many people believe that during the Day of the Dead, it is easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. People will go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed, and will build private altars, containing the favorite foods and beverages, and photos and memorabilia, of the departed.
Plans for the festival are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During this period families usually clean and decorate graves;most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas, or offerings, which often include orange marigolds called "cempasúchitl" In modern Mexico this name is often replaced with the term "Flor de Muerto" ("Flower of the Dead"). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.
Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels). Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods or sugar skulls and beverages. 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 ofrenda food, so even though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value.
Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes. These altars usually have the Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, and scores of candles. 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 dead will wake up because of the noise. Some will dress up as the deceased.
Altars can be created without strict guidelines, and can be dedicated to any person
Generally, altars maintain a reference to the four main elements of nature: Earth Wind Water Fire
Earth Represented by an agricultural element of some fashion. The returning loved ones are nourished by the aromas, and feed on the essence of the food placed out, rather than partaking of it physically. The placement of fruit, grains, and traditional favorite dishes provides an opportunity for the dead to replenish their energy after the journey home.
Wind Generally represented by fluttering objects, or something that is graceful in its movement. Papel picado banners, long strings of paper cutouts, are very traditional and come in a multitude of colors.
Wateris most often available and offers, again, an opportunity for the souls to find nourishment after their long journey. Water also signifies purity, and renewal.
Fire is represented by the presence of candles. Candles of various sizes signify those who remain alive; those the dead have left behind. Additional candles are placed for the anima sola, the solitary spirit or soul who has no relatives or friends to care for it.
Common Misconceptions Aboutthe Day of the DeadCelebrations • It is not the Mexican version of Halloween. Mexicans have celebrated the Day of the Dead since the year 1800 B.C. • It is not scary or morbid. There are no images of dead people, ghosts, witches, or the devil. • It is not a cult. This ritual has nothing to do with cults. It is a Catholic Christian ritual intermixed with folk culture. Going to mass is an essential aspect of this celebration. • It doesn’t honor death, but our dead relatives. We welcome the opportunity to reflect upon our lives, our heritage, our ancestors and the meaning and purpose of our own existence. • Altars or ofrendas are not for worshiping but for offering our love and remembering our departed family members
It is not a sad ritual. It’s a day of happiness because we will be remembering our loved ones. Although when in the graveyard, people assume an introspective attitude. • It is about Love not Fear. • It is not a “strange” ritual. It is very similar to going to a grave and leaving flowers or stuffed animals, lighting a candle to remember the dead. • It is not a careless or fearless confrontation of death. It is a moment to reflect upon one’s life and the cycle of life and death.
The altar I have done is a tribute to my dad, Berman Ellis Johnson, Ph D. He was teenaged when I was born. He graduated from high school in Barberton, Ohio with honors and went into the navy at age 17. When he was 20 he took technical training in the tool and dye industry supporting a wife and 4 children in typical middle class style. A divorce and misunderstandings separated us for 30 years. In that time we both went to college, each had a daughter, and each married 3 times. Our daughters were born six months apart. Naturally, when we reunited eight years ago we had lots of love and clarity to keep us connected forever. The DVD player shows our family pictures and dad playing his much loved tennis. The textbook he wrote came out of his love of teaching American history.
Everyone has had a pet. This pet is usually an animal AND friend. People frequently celebrate their lost dogs and cats, but the poor turtles of the world are lost to little remembrance.My turtle shall be famous.
For All Those... Anger and grief about war drove me to draw, stain, soak edges of wood in paint, pound the canvas, lean into the brush with the full weight of my body, and more. This piece is about America.