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Picture of Kalleh
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Have you heard of the Mexican holiday called El Dia de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead? It sounds like an interesting holiday (it's actually 2 days...November 1 & 2) where, according to tradition, the souls of deceased loved ones come back to mingle among us.

Those who celebrate this holiday prepare altars, or "ofrendas" which honor the deceased. The ofrendas include pictures of the dead family members, flowers and plates with meals and drinks they used to love.

The idea is to set up a comfortable space to allow the spirits to gather and enjoy themselves on Earth once again. However, I imagine it's also to allow the living to appreciate life. What a great holiday.
 
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Those who celebrate this holiday prepare altars, or "ofrendas" which honor the deceased. The ofrendas include pictures of the dead family members, flowers and plates with meals and drinks they used to love.

It's dinner in the graveyard if you're going to do the thing properly.
I doubt that this colonial holiday has come to southern Britain.
 
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Picture of Richard English
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I did come across this when I was in Mexico a few years ago. It's not at all morbid, as one might expect.

And no, it hasn't yet arrived in England; unlike most predominantly Catholic countries (in the British Islands only Ireland has that distinction), we celebrate very few saints' days and their associated holidays.


Richard English
 
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El Dia de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead

I first learned of El Dia de los Muertos in the late '60s or early '70s via the comic strip, Gordo (Fatso) by Gus Arriola which ran in the Sunday funnies. His yearly expositions on the Day of the Dead were always quite detailed and a lot of fun. When I lived in Bonn, the local gypsies used to have picnics in their cemetery (it was on the opposite side (schäl Sick in dialect) of the Rhine) on the graves of their family members once a year.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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El Dia de los Muertos began at least 3500 years ago, according to an Arizona news site, azcentral.com. There are links to photos, postcards, food, etc. One of the videos says that at one time the festival lasted about 2 months, until the Spanish missionaries came about 500 years ago and prohibited the festival. The people protested, and the missionaries were forced to honor the festival to appease them, though they shortened it to 2 days. Check out the photos and the post cards. Here 's an article put out by Iowa State University, and one by Wikipedia. Wikipedia says Day of the Dead is also celebrated in parts of the United States and Europe. It also points out similar celebrations.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist celebration honoring the dead. It includes a dance festival, Bon Odori. There is a Bon Odori festival in Seattle every year at the Seattle Buddhist Temple, featuring dancing and taiko drums. The dancers this year included this 91-year-old. Here's a Bon Odori dance and a taiko drum performance.
 
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Since the daycares where I teach Spanish, though multicultural, decorate and costume for Halloween, I taught them a little skeleton song. Though there is no Hallowe'en per se in Spanish or Latin American culture, the Mexican version of Día de los Muertos often embraces Mr Bones, as a reminder of human mortality.
 
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Our family has been celebrating this holiday for about 11 or 12 years. We first encountered this holiday at the National Children's museum in Washington DC. They have a section dedicated to Mexico and Latin America and a little room is all done up in skulls and whatnot. The kids' dad had just died the year before and they really glommed onto this way of remembering him. We set up the mantle as an altar with his urn as the centerpiece and have his favorite foods (sushi!). The kids liked decorating the skulls and having their little pan de muerte (bread in the shape of a skull). They never ate the sugar skulls though, too sweet!

Then we go to the place that he died and leave a Corona with a lime in it. It's a really nice tradition.
 
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