1. Halloween, the day we traditionally fear/ dramatize/ portray the dead, has passed, and now it is time to celebrate and embrace the dead with Día De Los Muertos.
The two-day celebration is a Mexican holiday that originated 3,000 years ago with the Aztecs, who had ceremonies to honor the deceased and to welcome the temporary return of their spirits.
Here, courtesy of The Huff Post, is how it became a Mexican holiday.
When Spanish conquistadors conquered the Aztec Empire in the 1500s, they brought along Catholicism, hence All Souls and All Saints Day, which were their own ways of honoring the dead.
The result: the Día de Muertos, the combined tradition we know today.
2. Day of the Dead celebrations occur all over the world, but one of the best places to celebrate the holiday is Mexico City.
The city had its first Day of the Dead parade Saturday, complete with floats, giant skeleton marionettes and more than 1,000 actors, dancers and acrobats in costumes, according to Fox News.
The parade included Aztec warriors, which had never been a part of traditional Day of the Dead celebrations, Fox reports.
This year’s celebration set aside some tradition and was influenced by Hollywood.
The opening scene of last year’s James Bond movie was filmed in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead celebration, and organizers took ideas from the parade, as it was portrayed in “Spectre,” and incorporated them into this year’s parade, according to Fox.
“When this movie hit the big screen and was seen by millions and millions of people in 67 countries, that started to create expectations that we would have something,” said Lourdes Berho, CEO of the government’s Mexico Tourism Board. “We knew that this was going to generate a desire on the part of people here, among Mexicans and among tourists, to come and participate in a celebration, a big parade.”
3. Día De Los Muertos is usually celebrated in a much more serious manner within the privacy of people’s homes, so the parade didn’t sit well with many in Mexico City.
“This is a cheap stunt,” tweeted Esteban Illades, editor of the magazine Nexos. “They film James Bond here and now we have the ‘traditional Day of the Dead parade.’ Let’s see what happens when (the mayor) finishes reading ‘The Da Vinci Code.’”
But many predicted the holiday would one day turn into a festive tourist attraction.
Shawn Haley, a Canadian who lives in southern Oaxaca state, and studies Day of the Dead, said the tradition has continued to evolve since 2000, The Guardian reports.
“We are seeing the transition from a private family celebration with folks who truly believed the dead family members returned home to a much more community oriented event (which) has removed much of the sincere belief,” Haley said.
“In the smaller villages, the private family celebration of the Day of the Dead goes on … and family is what keeps the Day of the Dead going.”
4. But other traditions continue as they’ve always been. .
One tradition is to honor dead loved ones with decorated altars offering gifts, according to the International Business Times. Typical items include candles, yellow marigolds, sugar skulls (the representation of a departed soul), food, drinks, cigarettes and clothing.
A picture of the deceased person is typically included.
5. Skeletons and skulls are a big part of the deal — an old tradition that dates back to the pre-Hispanic era. Skulls were kept as trophies and used during rituals.
In the 20th century, Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada repurposed the skull and drew a picture of a skeleton with a glamorous hat, which is known as Calavera Catrina — and the piece of art achieved iconic status, according to IBT.
His inspiration? The Aztec tale of Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead, a symbol during the Mexican Revolution.
6. All this talk about sugar skulls is making us hungry. .Lucky for us, there are a few bakeries in Bakersfield that are selling the Day of the Dead treats.
Tastries is selling sugar skull cookies for $3 and $4. Each one, uniquely designed with different colors, takes about 15 to 20 minutes just to design since each cookie — the icing, the colors and everything — is made from scratch, an employee tells us.
Such a labor intensive cookie almost certainly must be delicious.
The bakery sells a Day of the Dead cake and a skeleton cake.
You can also stop by Sweet Surrender for sugar skulls, and Sugar Twist said it is going to put out its Dia De Los Muertos treats this afternoon.
7. You can do the Dead Thing right here in River City, too. .The 24th Annual Día De Los Muertos Expo takes place Wednesday.
The Old Town Kern event (501 Sumner St., at Tulare) will have traditional food, Mexican folk and skeleton dancers, a skeleton costume contest, raffles, live music, face painters and more. And it’s free.
The event runs from 5 to 11:30 p.m. For more information, call 345-5842.
8. Now, what’s the difference between All Saints Day and All Souls Day, you might ask? .
The Huffington Post, as noted above, tells us Día de Muertos is celebrated in connection with the two Catholic holidays — All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1, to honor all the saints) and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2, a feast to commemorate those who have died and are now in purgatory).
The earliest observance of All Saints’ Day was recorded in the early fourth century, but didn’t get cemented until the early seventh century under Pope Boniface IV, The Post reports. Pope Gregory III made All Saints a holy day in the mid-eighth century and moved it to Nov. 1.
According to Catholic Online, All Saints celebrates all those who have entered heaven.
So heaven and purgatory are both covered. That other place? No celebrations, as one might expect.
9. One school in Bakersfield is especially involved in All Saints.
Every year, St. Francis Parish School hosts a Mass at St. Francis Church on All Saints Day. Today about 35 third-graders will dress up as their favorite saint, and during Mass, the students will explain why they chose that particular saint.
Cindy Schoorl, the vice principal and third grade religion teacher at St. Francis, says the Mass has been a longtime tradition. It was going on even before she started at the school 23 years ago.
The mother of one of her students recently told Schoorl that she remembers partaking in the tradition when she attended St. Francis.
Schoorl says the school tradition is “for the students to have a model to live their life by and ... to make a connection with living their faith,” Schoorl said.
Students have picked a variety of saints to act as role models, including St. Veronica, the patron saint of photographers, St. Anne, the patron saint of unmarried women and grandmothers, and St. George, the patron saint of soldiers.
The Mass is at 9 a.m. and the public is welcome to attend.
10. Now that you’re properly educated and feel ready to celebrate Day of the Dead, follow this checklist from USA Today.
First, build an altar and decorate it with candles, a framed pictured of your dead loved one and personal reminders, like their favorite food or drink. Now, sit around and swap stories about your loved one.
If you can’t build an altar, visit the graves of your loved ones.
Another popular tradition is to set out pillows and blankets at home, because many believe the dead will want to rest after a long journey to be with you.
And when you’re cooking, don’t forget to set a place setting for every person whose memory you are honoring.
Finally, remember this is a celebration. Eat, dance, tell stories about the departed — and have fun.