Ever since the catholicisation of South America by the Conquistadores the church has played a huge part in everyday life for most Mexicans. That’s no less true at the beginning of November when many families celebrate Dias De La Muerte or Day Of The Dead where the families of the deceased celebrate their lives on the night before All Saints Day. A festival we commonly know as Halloween.

During the celebrations there are fireworks, sweets and cakes, temporary shrines are built and decorated with sugar skulls and marigolds while families come with the deads’ favourite food and drinks. Although the rituals now occur during a festival assigned by the Christian church as All Saints’ Day the practice of visiting the dead goes back thousands of years to an Aztec celebration dedicated to a goddess named Mictecacihuatl, queen of the underworld and afterlife. In Brazil the festivities are known as Dia de Fiados where, as in Mexico, Spain and other strongly catholic countries there are costumes and parades which lead to cemeteries and churches in order to pray for their dead loved ones. However these rituals aren’t just limited to countries and societies which have adopted Christianity, in many non Christian cultures days set aside for venerating the dead exist. The idea of building a shrine with the deads’ favourite things is intended to call the soul in order for it to hear the prayers and comments that the living have for the dead. These might include “prestamos inmediatos” and “Tanda”.

While the dead adults receive tequila, mescal and atole, dead children, known as los Angelitos, are brought toys. Living relatives will also leave other gifts and sweets for the dead on their graves. Ofrendas or offerings are also put in homes and include pan de muerto and candied pumpkin which are intended to make the dead feel welcome. The living eat the food after the ceremony however, because the dead don’t have a corporeal body they enjoy the spiritual essence of the food leaving the food with little nutritional value but still full of deliciousness.

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Filed under: California IX Masonic Division

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