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Saturday Art and Archaeology: Day of the Dead

Rabbit, Rabbit.  A good day to help Firedoglake continue offering you these diaries.

Today, November 1, is All Saints’ Day, or el Dia de los Muertes to many cultures.  Above pictures celebrate the holiday in Belize City, Belize, at the Archaeological Museum.  There are many celebrations in cemeteries, and many families create altars with favorite items and foods of those who’ve passed away recently.  While it may seem morbid to those unaccustomed to the tradition, to those who’ve always had this day of celebration, it’s honoring those whom they loved and lost.

I chanced on this custom once along the Texas/Mexico border, where the streets were lined with wreaths for sale, and I discovered that the people in the border towns go down to the cemeteries and spend the day picnicking and making music, spending a day with their departed family.

Day of the Dead is celebrated from Mexico to Patagonia and focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars decorated with favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the departed. But the celebration also represents much more, according to Leticia Bentley, the outreach director for the Multicultural Center.

“[Day of the Dead is] a celebration of the people’s lives, not just remembering the dead,” Bentley said. “It is a time when family and community gets together. It is an opportunity to make peace with death and see it as part of the circle of life.”

The celebration of those who’ve passed has a tradition that relates to many cultures.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festivaldedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world. In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches.

(snip)

In pre-Columbian times indigenous Andeans had a tradition of sharing a day with the bones of their ancestors on the third year after burial; however, only the skulls are used today. Traditionally, the skulls of family members are kept at home to watch over the family and protect them during the year. On November 9, the family crowns the skulls with fresh flowers, sometimes also dressing them in various garments, and making offerings of cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol, and various other items in thanks for the year’s protection. The skulls are also sometimes taken to the central cemetery in La Paz for a special Mass and blessing.[17][18][19]

The Brazilian public holiday of Finados (Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 2. Similar to other Day of the Dead celebrations, people go to cemeteries and churches with flowers and candles, and offer prayers. The celebration is intended to be positive to celebrate those who are deceased.

In the tradition, those who recently passed away are still part of your life.  We think sometimes of those who were part of our lives and we can no longer be in touch with, and this is a celebration of the lives they had, the qualities we miss.

However you honor the memories of those departed from this life, hopefully this is a day of remembrance rather than one of dread.

The Maya showed images of the dead and of the underworld often, memorializing them in their celebrations.   Among the temples of Copán was one that celebrated the underworld, and many death’s heads adorn the features there.

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Saturday Art and Archaeology: Day of the Dead

Rabbit, Rabbit.  A good day to help Firedoglake continue offering you these diaries.

Today, November 1, is All Saints’ Day, or el Dia de los Muertes to many cultures.  Above pictures celebrate the holiday in Belize City, Belize, at the Archaeological Museum.  There are many celebrations in cemeteries, and many families create altars with favorite items and foods of those who’ve passed away recently.  While it may seem morbid to those unaccustomed to the tradition, to those who’ve always had this day of celebration, it’s honoring those whom they loved and lost.

I chanced on this custom once along the Texas/Mexico border, where the streets were lined with wreaths for sale, and I discovered that the people in the border towns go down to the cemeteries and spend the day picnicking and making music, spending a day with their departed family.

Day of the Dead is celebrated from Mexico to Patagonia and focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars decorated with favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the departed. But the celebration also represents much more, according to Leticia Bentley, the outreach director for the Multicultural Center.

“[Day of the Dead is] a celebration of the people’s lives, not just remembering the dead,” Bentley said. “It is a time when family and community gets together. It is an opportunity to make peace with death and see it as part of the circle of life.”

The celebration of those who’ve passed has a tradition that relates to many cultures.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festivaldedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world. In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches.

(snip)

In pre-Columbian times indigenous Andeans had a tradition of sharing a day with the bones of their ancestors on the third year after burial; however, only the skulls are used today. Traditionally, the skulls of family members are kept at home to watch over the family and protect them during the year. On November 9, the family crowns the skulls with fresh flowers, sometimes also dressing them in various garments, and making offerings of cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol, and various other items in thanks for the year’s protection. The skulls are also sometimes taken to the central cemetery in La Paz for a special Mass and blessing.[17][18][19]

The Brazilian public holiday of Finados (Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 2. Similar to other Day of the Dead celebrations, people go to cemeteries and churches with flowers and candles, and offer prayers. The celebration is intended to be positive to celebrate those who are deceased.

In the tradition, those who recently passed away are still part of your life.  We think sometimes of those who were part of our lives and we can no longer be in touch with, and this is a celebration of the lives they had, the qualities we miss.

However you honor the memories of those departed from this life, hopefully this is a day of remembrance rather than one of dread.

The Maya showed images of the dead and of the underworld often, memorializing them in their celebrations.   Among the temples of Copán was one that celebrated the underworld, and many death’s heads adorn the features there.

Death’s heads decorate the wall in Copán, Honduras.

Former decoration over entry to Underworld Temple, Copán, Honduras.

 

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.