Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

By , Indianapolis, IN
It all started out more than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico. The Conquistadors ran across natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death itself. This ritual is known as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This ritual is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States, including the Valley.

Many celebrations are held each year in many Mexican countries such as Mesa, Chandler, Guadalupe, and many more. Although the ritual has been together with Catholic theology, it still maintains its basic principles of the Aztec ritual. Today, many people make wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars to dedicate their loved ones that have deceased. Some people also make sugar skulls, made with the name of their loved ones that are dead on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend. The Aztecs and other Meso- American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them. The skulls were to symbolize death and rebirth. Also, many skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso- American civilizations believed came back to visit during the month long ritual.

To make the ritual more Christian-like, the Spaniards moved the date to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 1 & 2). It used to fall on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, and was celebrated for the entire month. Festivities were controlled over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as “Lady of the Dead,” which many believed that she died at birth.

In the United States and in Mexico’s larger cities, families build altars in their homes, dedicating them to the dead. They surround these altars with flowers, food and pictures of the deceased. They light candles and place them next to the altar. And that is what I learned about Day of the Dead.





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