Three Things You Didn’t Know About Did de los Muertos

Okay, so we admit it … as much as Christmas being about 7 weeks away is great and everything, we’re not quite ready to let go of our favourite time of year.

The temperature takes a sudden nose dive, leaving the air crisp … reinvigorating. The whole of the country can’t quite make it passed 4:30 in the afternoon without commenting about how dark it is, but it’s effing perfect for lighting your candles and watching Hocus Pocus and The Shining on a shameless loop. But, most importantly, it’s when everyone gets their spook on, and our grids light up with costumes, make-up and killer nights out.

Halloween is all well and good, but we’ve got a proper thing for Dia de los Muertos, or Day Of The Dead. Darkly sexy and oddly mysterious, there’s just something about it that has us fascinated each and every year. It got us to thinking … what do we know about it, really? There’s the candy skulls, right? And the big hats? But what’s it actually about?

Well … we did some research. And here’s three things we bet you didn’t know about Day Of The Dead.

It’s NOT Mexican Halloween.

Tracking back as far as 3000 years ago, the Aztecs in Mexico and Central America are known to have had a month long ritual in the summer to honour the loved ones they had lost. Then, the Spanish and their Catholicism happened, as did the subsequent generations of cultural amalgamation. The Dia de los Muertos tradition endured, enveloping the Catholic calendar of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1st and 2nd).

Sitting so close to our beloved Halloween, and our penchant for commercialising just about anything remotely interesting, has meant that Day Of The Dead has become a firm favourite for Halloween costumes. With its flamboyant, easy cool and dominant, impactful makeup, we totally get it … we’re obsessed with it too. But Dia de los Muertos is not Halloween – has literally nothing to do with Halloween – but is a profoundly sentimental and deeply importantly spiritual and cultural time of year for many of Mexican and Spanish descent.

It’s a celebration of life, not death.

With its hallmark embracing of the deliciously macarb, shit … even its name, the misconception is that Day Of The Dead romanticises death and darkness. Skulls everywhere, right? But actually, it’s completely the opposite. The whole thing is about celebrating the lives of their loved ones, with the family that was born from the blessings of that loved ones very existence. It’s a rich, uplifting and family focussed time of year.

Even back at its roots, the Aztecs believed that death brought new life, that dying was an important part of the cyclical nature of life. Celebrating that life have always included music, dance and the importance of laughter, telling jokes and believing that their relatives are laughing along with them.

La Calavera Catrina is the gift of irony that keeps on giving.

‘The elegant skull’, also known as just ‘Catrina’, is perhaps the eminent symbol of modern day ‘Day Of The Dead’. The irony is that she was actually drawn by Mexican print maker and cartoon illustrator Jose Guadalupe Pasada in 1910 to throw shade.

Originally a published as a satire etched in zinc, it was aimed at those Mexican natives that Pasada felt were adopting too many European aristocratic traditions in direct neglect of their own. That infamous big old hat, for example, her chapeau entente, was one of the most popular European styles of the early 20th Century.

That this exact aesthetic is what we as European admirers of Day Of The Dead are so drawn to is the gift of irony that keeps on giving and sheer genius on Pasada’s part, played out hundreds of years later.

… And you know what? We’re only just scratching the surface on the level of detail and intent that goes into a true, authentic Day Of The Dead. It’s a beloved cultural celebration, one worth respecting and admiring, not just a cool costume.

Le sigh. Well, we guess its time now to start the Christmas shopping, eh? Need some ideas …?

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All images sourced here, copyright remains with original owner.

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