Dia de los Muertos, Oct. 30 – or Day of the Dead, is a holiday (or festival) which is celebrated in Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, and other areas in Central and South America populated with the Latino ethnic background. The Day of the Dead is also celebrated in areas of the United States, such as California, Texas, and many others, in which the Mexican/American heritage exists.
7th Graders traditionally host a celebration for the entire congregation in remembering and honoring our ancestors or others whom we have lost. Friday, October 28 is set for preparation for this memorial celebration. 7th Grade families should put this date on their calendar and plan to help set up the classroom in the early evening. On Sunday for BOTH services 7th graders will host other classes and the congregation in remembering those who have left us. 7th grade families will also be needed to help clean up after the second service.
November 2nd is the official date for Day of the Dead, although it is celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd. These dates correspond with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. This correspondence results from the Catholic Church's efforts to "find similarities between the indigenous and Christian beliefs." This celebration has a complex history that has been transformed through the years. Today the celebration takes place at about the same time ancient corn festivals were celebrated, when food from a plentiful harvest was shared with the deceased. Now certain customs vary within different regions. The best way to describe this holiday is to say it is a time when family members who have died are remembered. In Mexico, this festival is considered to be the most important holiday of the year.
Although this celebration is associated with the dead, it is not portrayed as a morbid or depressing time, but rather a period full of life, happiness, color, food, family, and fun. There is excitement everywhere. In many areas, outdoor markets are displayed in which they sell many symbolic goods, such as special breads, flowers, pottery, baskets, candles, paper puppets, candy skulls, etc. The main symbols of this holiday are skulls and skeletons, which are displayed throughout the cities. Scenes of skeletons hugging, marching, dancing, and laughing are seen in window displays on the streets. Marigolds are another significant symbol for the Day of the Dead festivity, and are known as the flower of the dead. Their scent is believed to attract the souls and draw them back.
People celebrate this holiday in their households, as well as in the cemeteries. In their homes, between Oct. 31st and Nov. 2nd (a time called "Todos Santos") offerings of food and drink are prepared for the dead. "Ofrendas" (offerings) are often set up in the home on an altar displaying portraits, personal goods, clothing, favorite foods, and possessions of the deceased family member. Sometimes they are shown at the gravesites as well. On Nov. 2nd, family members visit the gravesites of their loved ones. They decorate their graves with flowers, enjoy picnics consisting of favorite foods of the deceased, and socially interact with others at the cemetery. This is an important social ritual that the Latino people see as a way of recognizing the cycle of life and death that is human existence. In certain areas, an all-night candlelight vigil takes place by the graves of the family members. The whole occasion is festive, and everyone talks of the dead as if they were still alive. During this time, people remember, re-live, and enjoy.