The interlocutor (MP) grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico before immigrating to the US in his early twenties.
DESCRIPTION: (told in person)
(MP): “In Mexico, Día de Los Muertos is a famous holiday that celebrates your dead relatives. It’s on November 1st and 2nd, which technically makes it Los Días de Los Muertos but you and most people living here [in the United States] call it by the singular version.
Catholics families set up the ofrenda, the….the altar with pictures of their dead relatives they want to remember. It’s supposed to be in the house, kinda private, and they put stuff like comida y bebidas y floras (food, drinks, and flowers)… on it as like, an offering to them. Lots of panaderias (bakeries) and other merchants also sell those sugar skulls… los calaveras y pan de muerto (bread of the dead). For the ofrenda. It’s so that the souls of their loved ones can come visit them during these days, y’know?
They’ll also go to the graveyard and clean up their family’s graves and put offerings on that too. It’s a lot of prayer and celebration, since it’s supposed to be happy and all. I know big festivals and parades happen all over Mexico to celebrate too. In Oaxaca, we went to the one that happens at the Zocalo (Oaxaca City’s main square) and saw all the people dressed in costumes with the masks and the dancing and singing. It’s very family-oriented and a lot of fun.
Having celebrated Día de Los Muertos before, I was already quite familiar with some of the traditions the interlocutor mentioned. Despite this, it was still eye-opening to hear about the holiday from someone who actually grew up in the culture from which the holiday.
Traditions commemorating the death of loved ones are prevalent in most, if not all cultures; however, I think that Mexico’s celebration of Los Días de Los Muertos is unique because it celebrates death as a positive thing rather than something that means grief, loss, and pain. I think it’s amazing to hear about the humor, joy, and happiness that surrounds death in this tradition.