One of the most popular Mexican traditions is “The Day of the Dead” celebrated on November 2nd. It was celebrated even before the Spanish came to America and today the essence of the tradition is still remembered by many people in the country. However, celebrating Halloween has become popular and although it is an American festivity, thousands of Mexicans and people from many other countries include it as part of their national celebrations.
During “The day of the Dead”, Mexican families remember their beloved by building special altars at their home and hanging orange or black decorations. Altars include photographs, Mexican dishes, sweets and drinks that their beloved used to enjoy while they were alive. They also contain a flower called Cempazúchitl because its orange intense colour represents the light of the sun. This tradition has been changing through the years and these altars are now smaller than they used to be.
Many Mexican families still go to the cemeteries during this day. They gather with the rest of the family members and sometimes build the altar at the grave to honour the memory of the beloved one. Sugar or chocolate skulls along with bread, also known as bread of the dead, are especially baked for this occasion. The bread is decorated with bone-like figures called “tears”; some families still keep the recipe and bake homemade bread every year.
Mexican humour can’t be left out and it’s represented through “Calaveras”. A “calavera” is a rhyme that describes a “funny” moment related with dead and it is dedicated to different people and sometimes they include drawings of a skeleton wearing a black cloak.
On the other hand, United States celebrates Halloween on the 31st of October. It’s a festivity that has become popular not only in Mexico, but in many countries from Europe and Latin-America. In USA, it’s common to see children wearing customs and shouting “trick or treat”, young people partying, pumpkins decorating every American home, jokes and horror stories.
Halloween has also a background story where people had the belief that spirits came down to earth during this day, but it is mainly popular because of the American film industry and the advertising surrounding this celebration.
Nowadays, Halloween’s popularity is increasing rapidly and it is not strange to see young people outside USA organizing big parties and children asking for sweets on the streets. For some families it is annoying because they strongly believe it’s not a Mexican tradition but some others have already given up and share the moment with their children.
To avoid losing this tradition, many Mexican organizations design altar expositions every year in different parts of the country and Mexico City. Tourists are also invited and they are always impressed by the culture and tradition. Halloween is only related to party or customs because the origins of this American celebration are not well known, the number of people who truly knows the origin of the word or “trick or treat” is really small.
Hopefully in 20 years, the “Day of the Dead” will still be alive as one of the purely Mexican traditions and a unique way of remembering those who are not with us any more.
Has your culture lost any tradition? Which is the oldest belief of your country?