Informant: Día de los Muertos, which translates to Day of the Death, is one of the biggest holidays in all of Mexico. Basically, the holiday is a celebration of the dead so it works as an opportunity for people to pay homage to the ones they have lost. Even though the holiday revolves around dead, it’s very joyous.
Collector: Are there any special rituals or traditions you do during this time?
Informant: Oh yeah so many. You need an altar and in the altar you usually put pictures of your loved ones along with some of their favorite foods and items. You then adorn everything with marigold and make a little walkway so that the spirits can find the altar. Supposedly the spirits of the dead come back that night to visit their families, so the marigold leads them to their corresponding altar. The foods and items the family puts up serves as a tribute to the dead and as a gift for when they “visit.”
Collector: Do you remember how you were introduced to the holiday?
Informant: Everyone in Mexico celebrates it and they teach it at school so I’ve literally known about it ever since I was born.
Day of the Death is an extremely popular and sacred holiday in Mexico. It is interesting to see the recognition it has gotten lately, with movies like Pixar’s Coco. My favorite part about this holiday is that it chooses to embrace death. The holiday literally revolves around the spirits of the death and the afterlife. The fact that death and family are such an integral part of one of the main holidays in Mexico says a lot about Mexican culture. For starters, it demonstrates how family oriented Mexico is. The whole point of Día de los Muertos is that your altar will allow your dead family members to see you again. It also demonstrates Mexicans relationship with death. They’re not necessarily frightened by death, but instead, take it to be a natural part of life and view it as a different cycle.
The use of the marigold is crucial to this holiday and demonstrates how culture heavy Día de los Muertos is. These flowers were sacred to the Aztecs, and are used throughout all of Mexico as an homage to Mexican culture and roots. The fact that they take center stage in one of Mexico’s most important holidays shows just how culturally relevant the marigold is. It is a reminder of Mexico’s past and a flower representative of the country.
I think Día de los Muertos is an amazing holiday that relies heavily on culture and family. I love the approach that the holiday takes towards death and I can understand why this was such a prominent part of the informant’s life; he claims that he has been surrounded by Día de los Muertos festivities ever since he was born. It sounds like a very joyous holiday where one is supposed to celebrate life through death. Even though death is a crucial aspect of this holiday, there is nothing sorrowful or scary about it. Instead, it’s about remembering and maintaining a connection with our loved ones and the people who have passed on.