In 2003, UNESCO considered Day of the Dead (November 1 and 2) as oral and intangible heritage of humanity. The origin of this festivity is pre-Hispanic. For ancient Mexicans, death was the beginning of a journey towards Mictlán, or Kingdom of the Dead or underworld. A central part of this celebration are altars or offerings.
These is an authentic feast of smells, colors, flavors and music, so that those who remain in an earthly plane do not forget that death is only a transition to the eternal, and for the dead to “return” and coexist with their friends and family.
Day of the Death Altar is a linchpin of this special day, as its elements are a mixture of pre-Hispanic and Catholic traditions that merge to celebrate death.
- Arch: It represents the entrance to the world of the dead and is decorated with flowers and sometimes, fruits. Representation of natural elements: Wind is represented by cut paper and a glass of water served to soothe the thirst of the spirit. Fire is represented by candles and earth, with seeds and fruits.
- “Aromas”: Copal was considered a sacred essence in pre-Hispanic cultures and is an element often used in altars. Other scents used are cempasúchil (marigolds flowers) and herbs such as laurel and rosemary.
- Food: It must be the meal the deceased liked, because they are able to enjoy it only once a year. Sugar, chocolate or amaranth skulls represent that death can be sweet. “Pan de muerto” is a modern element in the offerings. Beverages that the deceased enjoyed such as beer, tequila or pulque are also placed.
- Personal objects: Belongings of the deceased are placed, especially if they were loved and appreciated objects. Pictures of the departed are also displayed.
- Religious symbology: Some people place crosses, figurines, virgins and angels as well.