While we in Utah are busy buying candy and dressing up like Sarah Palin, our friends across the border to the south are preparing for the folk art festival from hell. Okay, from the dead would be more appropriate.
I don’t know a ton about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), other than the skulls and the gorgeous colors (why can’t all funerals be so vivid?). So I decided to look into it and bring you guys a cultural primer on this most colorful and wonderful festival.
In many parts of Mexico, November 1 is the day for the innocents (Dia de los Inocentes), when children and babies are remembered, and November 2 is the regular old Day of the Dead. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with Halloween, other than falling right after. It is, however, related to the Catholic holidays All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
Families visit graves, decorate them in orange and yellow marigolds (bringing two of my favorite colors to the imagery of the celebration), leave toys, candy, favorite foods and tequila for the dead. Some people dress up as their dead relatives, in a memorial after my own heart.
Symbols include the Catrina and the calvera. The calvera is just a skull – but you see them everywhere and on everything around Day of the Dead. The calvera was first made popular by the lithographs of Mexican artist, José Guadalupe Posada.
Some of the skulls are edible and made from sugar.
The Catrina, which means elegance, is typically a skull-faced doll of an upper-class woman. Jose Guadalupe Posada also started this tradition, in an effort to let fancy-pants ladies know that the Grim Reaper would also come for them despite their priviledges.
Our friends the Grimmleighs have a wonderful series of Catrina dolls. And their little girl, Molly, is dressing up as one for Halloween. What a bitchin’ costume!!
We’d love to invite our artduh readers to join us in another Mexican day of the dead tradition, writing short poems that mock the dead and death. Just post yours to the artduh.com facebook page, and the best one gets a prize.
And here’s some fun Day of the Dead shopping options on Etsy.com:
You may also want to celebrate with these fine folks: