That is what the Day of the Dead is really about; not forgetting. Does it sound strange to be celebrating death? Maybe, but then again, it is all part of the natural cycle of life.
Last year I wrote about some of the customs - some stranger than others - associated with this festivity in The Day of the Dead - 7 reasons to experience it.
On November 2nd, Mexicans honor and remember those who have died, usually by making an altar at home or in a public place in the name of a deceased relative or someone who made an important contribution to the local community or the country. The altar is decorated with traditional symbolic elements as well as objects that characterise the person being honoured and their favourite food and drink.
The other important aspect of the Day of the Dead is to remind us of our own mortality. You might be given a sugar skull , called a Calaverita, with your name on the forehead, which perhaps sounds a bit creepy, but maybe it does us good to remember that we're not going to live forever, that we should make the most of our time - live life to the full and without fear so that we don't fear death (to paraphrase Mark Twain).
If you scroll down to the end of my post on 7 Symbols of Mexico you can read more about the origins of the sugar skull.
The other Calaverita, aside from the sugar skulls, is a humorous poem about the death of, normally, a well-known person who is not yet dead. In these poems, and in fact in Mexican culture in general, Death is a female character, often nicknamed La Huesuda (the Boney One) or La Flaca (the Skinny One). It's an intriguing mix of the macabre, absurd and hilarious, and very Mexican.
Most striking of all are the vibrant colours everywhere, as you can see in the photos...
Sugar skulls and amusing little skeleton figures on a market stall.
The big altar set up in one of the main squares in the centre of Queretaro for the Day of the Dead.
The ground around the altar was covered in a "carpet" of sawdust, dried chillies, corn and black beans.
Another Altar de muertos in a restaurant in the town centre.
I think the skull is made from salt, sawdust and black beans.
Emma crouching in front of an altar on display in the town centre. The "carpet" is made from different coloured sawdust.
On display in our local greengrocers: flowers to decorate your altar; cempasuchil and manita de leon, sugar skulls, large and small, and miniature baskets of fruit made from sugar paste.
Pan de muerto: traditional sugary bread, only sold around this time of year. The shapes on top represent bones! It is delicious!
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