El Dia de Muertos

El Dia de MuertosHalloween, a contraction of All Hallows Eve, is on Friday this year. This holiday originated in Germany during the Middle Ages when boarding students at various universities took to the streets to beg for their bread. The poorer ones largely depended on the largesse of locals for what they ate.

However, the traditional Mexican El Día de Muertos, is an example of a Christian mythology imposed on a pagan, Aztec, one. According to the Aztecs, the Queen of the Mictlan, or underworld, was Mictacihuatl. She has migrated to the modern La Calavera Catrina.Catrina, (Dapper Skeleton) is based on an image from Jose Posada’s broadside, a 1911 etching, meant to satirize a native woman who wears a European style hat to distinguish herself.

This festival (the month of August in the Aztec calendar) became a three-day celebration, including November 1, called All Saint’s Day, Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) where children are remembered and November 2, Sunday, All Soul’s Day or the Day of the Dead. It has become a common celebration in many parts of the U.S. and among Spanish cultures worldwide. El Día de Muertos is celebrated with temporary votive altars, meatless feasts, and flowers, especially marigolds. People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, 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. Women often paint all or one half of their face with large black eye-rings and other symbols recalling a human skull.

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