After the Disney movie “Coco” the world became more familiarized with the traditional day of the death celebration in Mexico, its meaning and traditions. But many wonder what exactly should the altars have? What are the top ten dia de muertos dishes? Let’s take a look.
The day of the death celebration takes place from November the 1st to November the 2nd and it has existed for a long time, before the Spanish arrived to Mexican lands.
The Aztec mythology said there was a place called Mictlán, the land of the death where both queen Mictecacihuatl “Lady of the Underworld” and king Mictlantecuhtli “Lord of the Underworld” would welcome you after a long trip through 9 levels. Once there, you could visit your living family once a year during the day of the dead when a “magic portal” would open and you as a dead soul could cross back.
During this party the last maize harvest of the year before welcoming the dark times, was celebrated (something similar to Samhain in the Celtic civilization). Together with this celebration, it was believed that the veil between life and death was thinned during these days and our departed loved ones could come and visit and thus we would receive them as if they were alive and we had not seen them for a long time.
With time the altars, decorations and rituals have mixed with catholicism and changed. There is no “perfect” way to do it however each element holds a particular meaning.
The traditional flower used is the cempasuchil and the orange petals are spread from the cemetery to the houses creating a path with them and illuminating with candles in order to “guide” the dead and help them get home.
The favorite dishes of the departed are cooked and placed in an altar together with their pictures and other things they loved such as bottles of their favorite spirits. Some personal objects like clothing or jewelry would be placed to make the dead feel home.
Bread represents fraternity, the arch of flowers on top depicts the pathway between life and death. Salt goes for purification helping the travelling souls not to get corrupted on the way. The petate (palm tree leaf carpet where aztecs used to sleep) is placed to let our visitors know they have a place where to sleep while staying. Amongst other symbolic items you can add a sugar skull which adds triviality and a sweet side to the fact that death will always be present.
In order to get a better idea of what this celebration means to us don’t miss the Disney movie “Coco”, which truly takes you into a journey of colors, music and how to turn death into a joyful event.
What are the TOP 10 DISHES on dia de muertos? GO HERE TO FIND OUT AND START COOKING! (This post will be public on November the 2nd)
I truly hope you get to celebrate your beloved departed ones and also create a gorgeous altar!! Feel free to be creative with flowers and colors in case you don’t have cempasuchil and very important: add your pets! They also come back!!!
Happy dia de muertos!
Your host, Italia