autumn Monarch Butterflies, which have summered up north in the United
States and Canada, return to Mexico for the winter protection of the oyamel
fir trees. The locale inhabitants welcome back the returning
butterflies, which they believe bear the spirits of their departed. The
spirits to be honored during Los Dias de los Muertos.
Dias de los Muertos, the Days of the Dead, is a traditional Mexico
holiday honoring the dead. It is celebrated every year at the same time
as Halloween and the Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls
Day (November 1st and 2nd). Los Dias de los Muertos is not a sad time,
but instead a time of remembering and rejoicing.
townspeople dress up as ghouls, ghosts, mummies and skeletons and parade
through the town carrying an open coffin. The "corpse" within
smiles as it is carried through the narrow streets of town. The local
vendors toss oranges inside as the procession makes its way past their
markets. Lucky "corpses" can also catch flowers, fruits, and
ofrenda or altar
the homes families arrange ofrenda's or
"altars" with flowers, bread, fruit and candy.
Pictures of the deceased family members are added. In the late
afternoon special all night burning candles are lit - it is time
to remember the departed - the old ones, their parents and
next day the families travel to the cemetery. They arrive with hoes,
picks and shovels. They also carry flowers, candles, blankets, and
picnic baskets. They have come to clean the graves of their loved ones.
The grave sites are weeded and the dirt raked smooth. The Crypts are
scrubbed and swept. Colorful flowers, bread, fruit and candles are
placed on the graves. Some bring guitars and radios to listen to. The
families will spend the entire night in the cemeteries.
and skulls are found everywhere. Chocolate skulls, marzipan coffins, and
white chocolate skeletons. Special loaves of bread are baked, called pan
de muertos, and decorated with "bones.
skeleton figurines, called calacas, are
especially popular. Calacas usually show an active and joyful
afterlife. Figures of musicians, generals on horseback, even skeletal
brides, in their white bridal gowns marching down the aisles with their
celebration of Los Dias de los Muertos, like the customs of Halloween,
evolved with the influences of the Celtics, the Romans, and the
Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. But with added
influences from the Aztec people of Mexico.
Aztecs believed in an afterlife where the spirits of their dead would
return as hummingbirds and butterflies. Even images carved in the
ancient Aztec monuments show this belief - the linking the spirits of
the dead and the Monarch butterfly.
click to view a selection of "Calacas"