a couple of weeks ago, i went to my first *dia de los muertos* festival at the hollywood forever cemetery and i had an extraordinary time. at first, i was a little hesitant about going to a cemetery to *party like a rock star*. but because my lil one, noki, passed away a year ago on october, 27 2012, i was compelled to go & celebrate his lil life.
i’ll admit that i have always been drawn to the artistry of *dia de los muertos,* decorative colorful skulls that reminded me of jack the pumpkin king from the nightmare before christmas, and I’ve always thought it was a cool idea to celebrate the afterlife; i just didn’t fully understand the hows and the whys. somehow, i couldn't get the idea out of my head that celebrating at a grave site was impolite and a bit ominous.
so, the morning of the event, i decided to do a little research about *dia de los muertos* and i discovered, while watching the BBC culture documentary titled, feasts, on youtube, the most remarkable & relevant facts about this wonderful indigenous, aztec-mexican, holiday; it really put me at ease in celebrating *dia de los muertos* that day for noki.
here are 30 facts that I have rounded up between my youtube & web research that I would like to share with you :)
1. oaxaca, pronounced wah-ha-ka, is a state, located in southwestern mexico, best known for its indigenous peoples and cultures. it’s much more aztec than spanish.
2. dia de los muertos is an important holiday and tradition in oaxaca.
3. the aztecs always celebrated death. they believe that life is just a dream…and that only in death is one truly awake. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFt8-WdstQA
4. the celebrations begin on october 31 and continue through november 2. http://oaxacaculture.com/2011/05/dia-de-los-muertos-day-of-the-dead-in-oaxaca-mexico-history-and-traditions/
5. october 31 is a day of preparation. gender roles are more traditionally defined in rural mexico and women perform the housecleaning and food preparation, while men build clay altars in the home. ~ http://www.fest300.com/festivals/dia-de-los-muertos
6. november 1 is dedicated to children and infants, dia de los angelitios (day of the little angels). offerings of candies and favorite toys are placed at the altars in the hope that the spirits will absorb the essence and be nourished for their journey back to the underworld. ~ http://www.fest300.com/festivals/dia-de-los-muertos
7. november 2, dia de los muertos, is for the adults. calaveras (decorated skulls) are bigger and more elaborate, rituals are more complex and food is spicier and served with shots of tequila. ~ http://www.fest300.com/festivals/dia-de-los-muertos
8. assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, dia de los muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties and activities the dead enjoyed in life.
9. dia de los muertos is like celebrating the birthday of someone who has passed away. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFt8-WdstQA
10. although the skeleton is a predominant symbol for both halloween and dia de los muertos, the meaning is very different. ~ http://oaxacaculture.com/2011/05/dia-de-los-muertos-day-of-the-dead-in-oaxaca-mexico-history-and-traditions/
11. in mexico, the skeleton (calavera, pronounced ka-la-ver-a) represents the dead playfully mimicking the living and not a macabre symbol at all. ~ http://oaxacaculture.com/2011/05/dia-de-los-muertos-day-of-the-dead-in-oaxaca-mexico-history-and-traditions/
12. la calavera catrina is dia de los muertos most famous character. she represents a rich old lady and serves to remind everyone that even money can't keep us from death. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFt8-WdstQA
13. yellow and orange marigolds are the flowers most often used to decorate during dia de los muertos. they are called 'cempazuchitl', pronounced cem-paz-weet-chlin, in mexico, and the aztecs thought they symbolized death. ~ http://rhinestonearmadillo.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/10/more-day-of-the-dead-traditions.html
14. it is thought that the scent of the marigold petals forms a welcome path for the spirits to return to the altar or their graves. ~ http://rhinestonearmadillo.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/10/more-day-of-the-dead-traditions.html
15. yellow and orange marigolds are also known as the flower with 400 lives.
16. eating is central to the whole experience of dia de los muertos. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFt8-WdstQA
17. mole, pronounced mo-ley, is a traditional oaxacan sauce that's been served since long before the spanish arrived. cooked mainly for special, formal & elegant occasions, it's the food of choice for welcoming back the dead. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFt8-WdstQA
18. oaxacan people don't have a lot of money for things in general, but they will always have money for the food and flowers to celebrate this special occasion. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFt8-WdstQA
19. the word *ofrenda* means offering in spanish. ~ http://www.inside-mexico.com/ofrenda.htm
20. ofrendas are an essential part of dia de los muertos celebrations. they are also called altares or altars, but they are not for worshiping. ~ http://www.inside-mexico.com/ofrenda.htm
21. ofrendas are set up to remember and honor the memory of their ancestors. ~ http://www.inside-mexico.com/ofrenda.htm
22. dia de los muertos is celebrated by making beautiful altars to attract the spirits of those who have died to your home. ~ http://www.latintimes.com/articles/9573/20131024/what-dia-de-los-muertos-history-costumes.htm#.UonIlqVUhPM
23. the alter should have the favorite foods of the deceased and the four elements of nature represented in the altar: water, wind, fire, and earth. ~ http://www.latintimes.com/articles/9573/20131024/what-dia-de-los-muertos-history-costumes.htm#.UonIlqVUhPM
24. since the spirit is coming back, good food is prepared for them …since the dead love to eat delicious food. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFt8-WdstQA
25. families hold vigils, visit cemeteries of loved ones, and prepare delicious foods. homes are typically adorned with photographs of those who have died. ~ http://www.latintimes.com/articles/9573/20131024/what-dia-de-los-muertos-history-costumes.htm#.UonIlqVUhPM
26. the basic belief behind día de los muertos is that the human soul does not die. as such, while an individual may pass away, their soul can travel to and from this world and the afterlife, allowing loved ones' souls to visit. ~ http://www.latintimes.com/articles/9573/20131024/what-dia-de-los-muertos-history-costumes.htm#.UonIlqVUhPM
27. on dia de los muertos, the dead are a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones. ~ http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/media/dia-de-los-muertos/?ar_a=1
28. you don't just acknowledge the dead once. you can always look forward to their return as long as you live. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl25Uf9RpdA
29. when you celebrate death, grief is slightly easier to bear. ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl25Uf9RpdA
30. dia de los muertos is neighborly. ~ tiadee
i feel very close & connected to noki. because of him, i believe in eastern-western medicine; because of him, i believe in the beauty of dia de los muertos. that little munchkin cat had a profound impact on my life. i truly miss him.