Day of the Dead Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Dead: A Cultural Experience

One of the most common misconceptions about The Day of the Dead is that it is synonymous and analogous to the American tradition of Halloween. However, in certain respects the two traditions are a bit like night and day, particularly regarding their perspectives on life and on death. While western traditions don't really have a full multi-day holiday by which to honor the dead, there is an interesting amount of co-occurrence with certain Western rites. For instance, it coincides with the Catholic All Soul's and All Saint's Day, "…the indigenous people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones. They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them" (RTC, 2013). The belief revolves around the idea of the fact that the dead enjoy being honored in this manner and that the dead also desire and appreciate the offerings which are put forth for them.

Ethnographic Study

I was thus very excited to partake in this holiday mostly because I had read so much about it and because I was mostly aware of the fact that I no doubt had a poor understanding of it and what it meant to so many others. The values which this day of festivities revolves around is largely based on the fact that the bonds of love are never broken, not even in death. The day of the dead is there so that individuals can honor their beloved departed, and in a certain respect it is a way of communicating with them. Others assert that the values which underscore the day of the dead are really founded in an appreciation of life. This message helps to remind us that the cycle of life is very brief and that people need to appreciate and enjoy every moment.

The emotional spectrum observed was one largely of happiness, joy and a certain light-hearted quality. While it is common for some people to get teary-eyed during the day as they reminisce about their loved ones, largely the day is a celebration about the continuation of life. "…beautiful altars (ofrendas) are made in each home. They are decorated with candles, buckets of flowers (wild marigolds called cempasuchil & bright red cock's combs) mounds of fruit, peanuts, plates of turkey mole, stacks of tortillas and big Day-of-the-Dead breads called pan de muerto. The altar needs to have lots of food, bottles of soda, hot cocoa and water for the weary spirits. Toys and candies are left for the angelitos, and on Nov. 2, cigarettes and shots of mezcal are offered to the adult spirits. Little folk art skeletons and sugar skulls, purchased at open-air markets, provide the final touches" (RTC, 2013). There is a strong sense of both mysticism and practicality which pervades the most overwhelming aspects of this holiday: this can too readily create confusion or misinformation about the pillars of the holiday -- that's why it was so important for me to explore. For many of these families, this day is very expensive, and generally two months income is used to honor the families. However, this is seen as entirely a worthwhile endeavor as the spirits deserve this treatment. Not only do the spirits deserve the honor, but many believe that it's a good investment of money, feeling that the happy, honored spirits will offer protection, wisdom and…

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