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   Undertoad  Monday Nov 6 12:22 PM

November 6, 2006: Day of the Dead sculpture



It's not a George Romero film. It's an xoB/WaPo image, showing a temporary sculpture set up in Zocalo Plaza, Mexico City, to celebrate the Day of the Dead, Nov. 1 and 2.

I don't know why the Day of the Dead actually spans two days, and all I've ever known about it comes from the quirky computer game Grim Fandango, which the Day apparently inspired. It turns out that in Mexico and a few other places, the macabre Day is a happy celebration - and not at all a scary and sad remembrance - of the dead.

Is it coincidence that this freaky Day occurs near the same time as... Halloween, and the Catholic All Saints/All Souls Day, and the Celtic Samhain? After the end of harvest when the first frost has just happened?

In any case, we find a reason for celebration; and I think putting up a huge pink skeleton sculpture is a good idea any time.



jinx  Monday Nov 6 12:42 PM

I day of the dead. The sugar skulls are the best.



Emrikol  Monday Nov 6 01:31 PM

Reminds me of my favorite music video of all time! I wish I could find a copy somewhere (not that I've looked very hard)




jinx  Monday Nov 6 01:44 PM

wish granted



gaidin  Monday Nov 6 01:57 PM

Grim Fandango was a great game



Elspode  Monday Nov 6 02:00 PM

It is no coincidence that it falls at this time of the year. Its celebration is macabre for much the same reasons as ghouls and monsters being prevalent on Halloween.

In order to remove the fear of something, embrace it and understand it. That's what *I* get out of La Dia del Muerte, anyway.



Lurker  Monday Nov 6 05:52 PM

Thanks, Jinx

Just took a youtube "trip" down memory lane with the Grateful Dead. Those were the days.



xoxoxoBruce  Monday Nov 6 05:57 PM

Welcome to the Cellar, Lurker.

Day of the Dead is also when Mexico's Mayan Indians dig up their kin, that have been buried for three years, clean the bones and put them in wooden crates. Anybody know what they do with the crates?



rkzenrage  Monday Nov 6 06:33 PM

Reminded me more of Felini.



bluecuracao  Monday Nov 6 07:52 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Undertoad
I don't know why the Day of the Dead actually spans two days, and all I've ever known about it comes from the quirky computer game Grim Fandango, which the Day apparently inspired. It turns out that in Mexico and a few other places, the macabre Day is a happy celebration - and not at all a scary and sad remembrance - of the dead.

Is it coincidence that this freaky Day occurs near the same time as... Halloween, and the Catholic All Saints/All Souls Day, and the Celtic Samhain? After the end of harvest when the first frost has just happened?
On the first day of Dias de los Muertos, the spirits of the children come back and are honored; on the second day, it's the adult spirits' turn. Altars are set up, some of them big and public, others small and more personal, where family members place candles, photos of deceased loved ones, food and drink offerings, flowers and gifts. Oh, and the sugar skulls, too. I hear that in Mexico, people have all day and night picnics on the graves of their dead relatives.

I went to a small celebration this past weekend and found out that Dias de los Muertos is rooted in an Aztec celebration for the goddess of death, and was originally held in the summer! When the Spaniards arrived, the holiday was supressed, but then combined with the Catholic All Saints/Souls day on November 1st and 2nd so it could be celebrated in disguise. So it isn't necessarily specific to that time of year.


Elspode  Tuesday Nov 7 09:55 AM

Score another one for the Christian Juggernaut. All Saints Day, and hence All Hallows' Eve the night before, was superimposed on the existing Samhain celebration practiced by the Celts, much the same as Xmas near Yule, Easter at the Vernal Equinox, and Candlemas at Imbolc. What better way to draw the natives into your practices than to co-opt their existing celebrations with your own? The natives of Central and South America just got the same treatment.



CaliforniaMama  Tuesday Nov 7 04:41 PM

What I've been told is that on El Dia de los Muertos, the dead are celebrated to appease the spirits so they don't come back to do mischief on the living.

Wasn't Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve, a similar idea? To dress up as goulish and scary characters so as to keep the ghosts away? The carved and lit pumpkins were part of that same tradition, of keeping the spirits at bay, weren't they?

I don't know anything about Samhain and would love to hear a description!



barefoot serpent  Tuesday Nov 7 05:47 PM

A lot of these cultures are also heavily into La Danse Macabre. No matter who you are; rich or famous or peon, our earthly being ends up as worm food.



Elspode  Tuesday Nov 7 06:21 PM

Samhain was believed to be the time when the "veil" between this world and the next was thinnest, and that the dead could pass through and walk this world again. Depending on how you look at it, ghoulish costumes either honor the dead or help scare them away. Jack-0-Lanterns evolved from the gourds and other root vegetables carved into lanterns to help illuminate dwellings, in hopes of discouraging the spirits from intruding.

It is also believed that communication with the departed is easiest at this time of year for those who choose to do so. Dia del Muerte's custom of feasting on the graves of their ancestors seems to me to combine the notion of communicating with one's departed loved ones and setting a place at the feasting table (a "dumb supper") for them.

Simply put, Samhain is a time to remember, to honor and to experience the usually unseen. The Celts held Samhain in conjunction with the third harvest of the year...the harvest of the animals of their herds, often those who were too weak or old to survive the coming of Winter. It is only natural that an association with Death would derive from this. Also, the days grow shorter at this time of the year, and it seems that the Sun is "dying", and the Earth goes fallow and brown.

Primitive cultures expressed some very, very complex concepts in very interesting, and ultimately, enlightened ways, from a spiritual perspective, I think.



warch  Tuesday Nov 7 06:52 PM

What Ive seen of Dias de los Muertos (Chicano expressions of it) it celebrates deceased loved ones and reminds the living to value your brief life and honor the family connections -with food, candles, flowers, stories, laughter. Some of the offrendas are amazing.


Here's my favorite place in Texas to get funky skeleton stuff! http://www.tesoros.com/contact.html



Sundae  Wednesday Nov 8 12:06 PM

One of the old regulars in a pub I worked in still remembered food being put outside on Halloween in the village he grew up in. He told me that Halloween used to be the equivilant of New Year's Eve in pre-Christian times in that it was the death of the year. Not sure if that's connected to Samhain, I don't remember him explaining it further.

Oh and they used to bring a gift of bread and salt over the threshold when someone moved into a house.



Elspode  Wednesday Nov 8 12:13 PM

Yes...Samhain was the Celtic New Year.



Flint  Wednesday Nov 8 12:17 PM

Or, alternately, Samhain is an evil demon (as widely described by confused Christians...)



xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Nov 8 01:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elspode
Yes...Samhain was the Celtic New Year.
The American Plains Indians, marked the years from first snow to first snow, which would put the new year about the same time.
http://wintercounts.si.edu/html_version/html/index.html


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