November 1st and 2nd, mark the Days of the Dead (Dias los Muertos) in Mexico. November 1st is in honor of deceased children and infants (Dia de los Inocentes – Day of the Innocents) and November 2nd is in honor of adults (Dia de los Muertos).
Whenever I bring up Day of the Dead in conversation, it’s usually met with a response that insinuates morbidity. In fact, Day of the Dead is quite the opposite. Families and friends gather on these two days to celebrate the lives and memories of loved ones that have been lost over the years. It is a celebratory holiday and one of my most memorable travel experiences was a trip to Michoacan, Mexico to partake in the festivities.
Mexican legend has it that people die three deaths. The first death occurs when our body ceases to function. The second death happens when our body is buried, returned to the earth, and placed out of sight. The third, and final death, ensues when there is no one left to remember us. Dias de los Muertos is a way to keep the third death from coming to pass.
Over the two Days of the Dead, it is believed that the souls of the deceased find it easier to visit lost family members and friends. Because of this, people visit cemeteries in anticipation of this annual return. Altars are erected at the grave site and ofrendas (offerings) of the deceased’s favorite foods and libations are placed on the altars – enticement and sustenance for the soul’s long journey. Dias de los Muertos is a celebration of life as the thought of death is embraced and accepted.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Mexico during this time of year, it’s an experience that provides insight into a national tradition that blends a variety of cultures spanning thousands of years. In the process, Dias de los Muertos just might change the way you view death.