Every year in Mexico, at the start of November, people celebrate and remember their family members and loved ones that have died in a festival called "Día de los Muertos" ("Day of the Dead"). People gather together to pray, honor and reacquaint themselves with their deceased with food, flowers, parades and dance. It takes place on November 1, to coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (which is November 2).
The tradition can be traced back over 3000 years, to the Aztecs that would take a day each year to seem to mock death. At least, that is how it would appear to the Spanish Conquistadors that landed on what is now modern day Mexico over 500 years ago. The indigenous people kept skulls as trophies and would put them on display during this to symbolize death and rebirth. This month long celebration was held on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar (about the same as our August). The natives viewed death not as the end of life but as a continuation of it, which they embraced. They felt that only in death, does one truly become awake from the dream of life. Their festival was presided over by the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl, whom the natives called "Lady of the Dead".
Day of the Dead celebrations at the cemetery of San Antonio Tecómitl, Mexico.
To the Spaniards, this was viewed as barbaric, and as part of the effort to convert the natives to Catholicism, they tried to put a stop to the festival, but failed. They then decided to make it more "Christian" by moving it to the start of November, to match their own Catholic celebration, much the way Christmas was moved to December to "Christianize" the pagan Winter Solstice celebrations.
The modern Day of the Dead has its own "Lady of the Dead" in the form of the Catrina (sometimes spelled "Catarina"). In 1910, Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada created an image he called "La Calavera de la Catrina" ("skull of the rich woman) in a parody of a Mexican upper-class female. While most of his works were meant to be satirical, after this death they became associated with this holiday, and Catrina images and items are now a very prominent part of the celebration.
Participant in Catrina costume
On the day, people visit cemeteries to be with the spirits of their dead and build private altars containing the favorite foods, photos and memorabilia of the departed. This is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the words of the living for them. These can be sad or humorous as the participants remember funny events and stories about the departed. Altars may also be built at home, usually containing a Christian cross and icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary, many candles, and offerings ("ofrenda").
These offerings take many forms. For dead children ("los angelitos", or "the little angels"), toys are brought, while bottles of tequila or jars of atole (a traditional masa-based non-alcoholic hot drink) are set out for adults. Candy, "bread of the dead" ("pan de muerto"), and other foods are also set out, for some people believe the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of these foods. There are even little skulls made of sugar.
One of the most common symbols of the holiday is the skull ("calavera") which is incorporated into foods (like the sugar skulls), masks, costumes and face paints. Many foods and treats are also made to look like skulls and bones. Some also believe possessing Day of the Dead items will bring them good fortune, so they carry dolls of the dead and get tattoos. In some parts of Mexico, they have even started a custom similar to the trick-or-treating of Halloween in which the children go around knocking on people's doors for small gifts of candy or money.
Other Day of the Dead celebrations are held in various parts of the world on the same day, largely originating from the Mexico tradition. Brasil has its "Dia de Finados" in which people visit churches and cemetaries. Spain does similar, along with festivals and parades. African and Asian cultures have similar events. For a centuries old tradition that the Spaniards tried to destroy, the Day of the Dead tradition is very much.. alive!
|Celebrations - Day of the Dead|
All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.
|Letter From The Editor - A New Parrot Time|
|The Rosetta Stone - Triple Cypher|
|Ferdinand de Saussure - Signs of Language|
|At the Cinema - L'auberge Espagnole|
|Languages in Peril - The Finno-Ugrics|
|Word on the Streets - The Russian Zone|
|Where Are You?|
|Celebrations - Day of the Dead|
|Revisited - Slang|
|We Are The Linguists|
|Language Learning Methods - Audio|
|Sections - Journals|
Find previous issues in the archives.
Letter From The Editor - Nom de Plume • News Brief • Mark Your Calendar • Language Learning In The Globalization Era: - Translation, Culture And Power Relations • When Pigs Fly • Introducing Words R Us • Languages in Peril - The Good Language of Brazil • In Focus • At the Cinema - Un Sac de Billes • Language Puzzles • Where Are You? • Book Look - Aikainen lintu nappaa madon. Sananlaskuja läheltä ja kaukaa • Basic Guide to Croatian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - No Politics • Make Your Own Language Group • A History of Research in Study Abroad • Parrot Time on Patreon • Languages in Peril - Sayonara, Ainu • At the Cinema - La Coppia dei Campioni • Where Are You? • Book Look - The Bible of the Language Learners and Polyglots • Basic Guide to Romanian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Hope and Failing • Six Ways To Choose Which Languages To Learn • Learning Spanish - The trials, the tribulations and one triumphant learning hack • At the Cinema - The Last King (Birkebeinerne) • Celebrations - Birkebeinerrennet • Where Are You? • Book Look - Langenscheidt Dictionaries • Basic Guide to Swedish • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Culture and Language, Again • Learning A Language Is Learning Its Culture • Revisited - Early Bardic Literature in Ireland • Languages in Peril - Save Medan Hokkien! • In Others' Words - Ulrike and Peter Rettig • At the Cinema - Monster Hunt • Where Are You? • Book Look - Language Alter Ego • Basic Guide to Italian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - A Kind Word • Language and Power: The Hidden Struggle • 4 Ways To Learn Through Reading • Language Learning is for everyone! • Languages in Peril - The Decline of Sicilian • At the Cinema - The Host • Where Are You? • Book Look - Italian Short Stories for Beginners • Basic Guide to Hungarian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Making it Happen • Motivation - Expressing oneself and the expression of oneself in language learning • Motivation Killers in Learning a Language • Mixing Languages and Relationships • In Others' Words - Brian Powers • At the Cinema - Cutting Room Floor • Languages in Peril - Cyprus' Language Revival Approach Problem • Where Are You? • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - The Importance of Travel • Broadening The Mind Travels The World • The Secret Life of Diacritics • There Are No Wrong And Right Gestures, Only Cultural Differences • Google Translate Exposed: - The Truth Behind Everyone's Favorite Translator • At the Cinema - Queen • Book Look - The A to Z of Learning German • Where Are You? • Basic Guide to Papiamentu • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Free Things • The Cost of Free Language Resources • Review of Polyglot Workshops: Brazil • Easier Way to Learn Languages Fast • Dream, decide, do - tips from a polyglot • At the Cinema - Cambio de Ruta • Languages in Peril - Talysh • Where Are You? • App Rev - Tandem • Book Look - Language Master Key • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Studying in Summer • Polyglot Events All Around The World - You Are Not Alone • Playing Games with Language • Spanish E-training – The 'Big Bang' Investment • Can a Language Die? • At the Cinema - La Casa del Fin de los Tiempos • Languages in Peril - Scottish Gaelic • Words in Your Mouth - Apple • Celebrations - Nag Panchami • Where Are You? • Book Look - Fluency Made Achievable: The Fluent Guide to Core Language Skills • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Sounds Like • How Do You Say It? - A look at sound notation systems • Of Pidgins and Creoles - A look at how some languages are born • Who Are You To Learn A Language? • At the Cinema - Dil Chahta Hai • Languages in Peril - Yumans on the Edge • Words in Your Mouth - Egg • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Breaking with Tradition • Are You Wasting Your Money on Language Classes? • Chatting in Languages Online - Part 2: Voice Chats • Why English Is Different Than Any Other Language • The Digital Language Collective • At the Cinema - Viva La Libertà • Languages in Peril - The Tribes of the Tamil-Kannada • Words in Your Mouth - Rice • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Thirteen • Chatting in Languages Online - Part 1: Text Chats • Why Do People Learn Languages? • The Question Of Practice - An International Language Is Possible • At the Cinema - Chinese Puzzle • Celebrations - Fastelavn • Words in Your Mouth - Cheese • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Over Time • Which Language Is...? • The Ultimate Fate of Language Learning • 5 Funny Words In Afrikaans From My Perspective • At the Cinema - Everybody's Famous! • Word on the Streets - Why Writers are Important • Words in Your Mouth - Milk • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - World Ambassadors • Coming Home to Faroese - The Why and How of Learning a Small Language • Danish and Faroese: A Biography • At the Cinema - Ludo • Basic Guide to Faroese • Celebrations - The Faroese Festival Summer • Revisted - The Faroe Islands • Word on the Streets - Famous Faroe Islanders • Where Are You? • The Grind: Why the Faroese Hunt Whales • The Legend of the Scottish Princess • Faroese Ballads - Nornagest Ríma and Ormurin Langi
Letter From The Editor - Expansion • Religion in Culture • Languages in Peril - Decline of the Gallo-Italics • Language Learning and Translation • Word on the Streets - Italian Greats • Book Look • At the Cinema - Xingu • Celebrations - Hangul Day • Where Are You? • Words in Your Mouth - Bread
Letter From The Editor - Tracing Words • Constructed Languages - Making It All Up • Language Conflicts - Flemish vs. Walloon • Rohonc Codex - Hungarian Enigma • At the Cinema - Il Comandante e la Cicogna - Garibaldi's Lovers • Where Are You? • Words in Your Mouth - Sausage • Book Look • GlobTech - Using Locale
Letter From The Editor - Globalization • Speaking with Aliens • Celebrations - Esala Perahera - The Festival of the Tooth • Language Conflicts - Bokmål vs. Nynorsk • At the Cinema - Pane e Tulipani - Bread and Tulips • Revisited - Words Which Have Changed Their Meaning • Languages in Peril - Keeping Up With The Kartvelians • Where Are You? • Sections - Reviews • Word on the Streets - Indonesian Innovators • GlobTech - Google Translate Section
Letter From The Editor - The Highlander Condition • When Languages Meet • At the Cinema - Mal Día Para Pescar - Bad Day to Go Fishing • Celebrations - Tanabata - The Star Festival • Languages in Peril - The Romanian Relatives • Revisited - Words Made By Great Writers • Where Are You? • Language Learning Methods - Immersion • Sections - Links
Letter From The Editor - Price of Fame • Liber Linteus - Mummified Language • Pencak Silat • At the Cinema - Bombay • Celebrations - Inti Raymi - Festival of the Sun • Cracking the Code • Languages in Peril - The Chibchan Family • Revisited - Words From The Names Of Animals • Word on the Streets - Great German Authors • Where Are You? • Language Learning Methods - Internet • Sections - Neighborhood
Letter From The Editor - Why Polynesian? • Rongorongo - Island Chants • Otto Dempwolff - Islands of Language • At the Cinema - Whale Rider • Celebrations - Pasifika Festival • Special Feature - Avoiuli • Languages in Peril - The Island Invasion • Revisited - Legends of Maui - Maui's Home • Word on the Streets - Malay Masters • Where Are You? • Revisited - Legends of Maui - Maui Snaring the Sun
Letter From The Editor - Linguist or Polyglot • The Phaistos Disc - Puzzle of Crete • Otto Jespersen - Progress of Language • At the Cinema - Kukushka - The Cuckoo • Celebrations - Carnival • Languages in Peril - The Salish Tragedy • Word on the Streets - Kannada Writers • Where Are You? • Revisited - Stories In The Names Of Places • New Souls • Language Learning Methods - Software • Sections - Parleremo YouTube
Letter From The Editor - Freaking Out • The Voynich Script - Cryptic Codex • Benjamin Whorf - Relativity of Language • At the Cinema - Lost in Translation • Languages in Peril - The Polish Connection • Word on the Streets - Romanian Poets • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Holi • A Language Dream • Revisited - Words From National Character • Language Learning Methods - Classes • Sections - Language Exchange
Letter From The Editor - Truth in Advertising • Linear A & Linear B - Lost Minoan • Edward Sapir - Patterns of Language • At the Cinema - Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner • Word on the Streets - Norwegian Notables • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Valentine's Day • Languages in Peril - The Rhaeto-Romance Trio • Revisited - Proverbs • Linguistics Love Song • Language Learning Methods - Books • Sections - Recordings
Letter From The Editor - A New Parrot Time • The Rosetta Stone - Triple Cypher • Ferdinand de Saussure - Signs of Language • At the Cinema - L'auberge Espagnole • Languages in Peril - The Finno-Ugrics • Word on the Streets - The Russian Zone • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Day of the Dead • Revisited - Slang • We Are The Linguists • Language Learning Methods - Audio • Sections - Journals
Subscribe to Parrot Time!