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Day of the Dead/Halloween
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Jonathan and Rebecca Allinson


* Day of the Dead in Mexico represents a mixture of Catholic devotion and Pre-Hispanic traditions and beliefs. As a result of this mixture, the celebration comes to life as an unique Mexican tradition including an altar and offerings dedicated to the deceased.

* The altar includes four main elements of nature — earth, wind, water, and fire.
Earth is represented by crop: The Mexicans believe the souls are fed by the aroma of food.
Wind is represented by a moving object: Tissue paper is commonly used to represent wind.
Water is placed in a container for the soul to quench its thirst after the long journey to the altar.
Fire is represented by a wax candle: Each lit candle represents a soul, and an extra one is placed for the forgotten soul.

* Mexico City - Bakery windows are decorated with skeletons and verses dedicated to the deceased. People select the bread they want to offer their ancestors, a food that is later enjoyed by the family. The people of Mexico City remember those who have crossed the river that separates life from death. This two-fold experience enlightens the beginning and the end of a cycle.


* The original celebration can be traced to many Mesoamerican native traditions, such as the festivities held during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli, ritually presided by the "Lady of the Dead" (Mictecacihuatl), and dedicated to children and the dead. In the Aztec calendar, this ritual fell roughly at the end of the Gregorian month of July and the beginning of August, but in the postconquest era it was moved by Spanish priests so that it coincided with the Christian holiday of All Hallows Eve (in Spanish: "Día de Todos Santos.") This was a vain effort to transform the observance from a profane to a Christian celebration. The result is that Mexicans now celebrate the day of the dead during the first two days of November, rather than at the beginning of summer. But remember the dead they still do, and the modern festivity is characterized by the traditional Mexican blend of ancient aboriginal and introduced Christian features.

* In homes observant families create an altar and decorate it with items that they believe are beautiful and attractive to the souls of their departed ones. Such items include offerings of flowers and food, but also things that will remind the living of the departed (such as their photographs, a diploma, or an article of clothing), and the things that the dead prized and enjoyed while they lived. This is done to entice the dead and assure that their souls actually return to take part in the remembrance.


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