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Day of the Dead (Mexico)
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themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

The Spaniards when coming to the Americas in the 1500's found the Aztecs had a
festival which lasted a month, welcoming the returning spirits of their ancestors.
With dance, music and offerings of corn, squash and other harvest foods, they
encouraged the spirits to visit. The Aztecs were not the only tribe that celebrated
their ancestors in this manor; the Incas, Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Totnacs, and Mexicans
also have a rich history of this form of ancestor veneration.

When most of Mexico, and Central America was converted to Catholicism this
festival morphed into a nine day Festival that ended on November 2nd; All Soul's
Day. The essence of that celebration remains today.
Since the purpose of these altars is to attract
the soul of the dead, they are loaded with that
person’s favorite things as well as other items
that are symbolic. Skulls made of sugar are a
common symbolic treat, a reminder that while
life is sweet, death is not to be feared.

This is also of day of feasting for the living.
Symbolic foods include: chocolate drinks with
cinnamon and sugar, tamales, pan de muerto
(special bread in the shapes of the deceased),
and champurrado, a chocolate dipping sauce
Families spend a good portion of the year
planning and preparing for this most respected
and celebrated holiday in the Latino countries.  
Depending on the traditions that have been
handed down after they clean their homes
spotless, the family will either go to the
cemetery or their home and build elaborate
altars dedicated to their deceased loved ones.

These altars usually contain; candles, pictures
and/or statues of the Virgin Mary, the Christian
cross, candy, cocoa, fruits, nuts, and any other
food or drink that the departed enjoyed in life.
Almost all celebrations include some form of
music and dancing, in some areas they wear skull
masks with the departed’s name on the forehead:
while in others they wear colorful masks and
costumes to call out their ancestors’ spirits.  
Shells attached to clothes attract the dead, with
the sound of the clinking, as they dance and
move around. (Giving us the original meaning of
“waking the dead”) The celebration can take on
a tone of humor as celebrants share funny
antidotes, and humorous events from the lives of
for the bread. Chocolate isused to symbolize the pre-Hispanic times when cocoa was
used for currency. During those times, people were buried with cocoa beans, to be
used for bribes in the afterlife.

There is no one way to celebrate the holiday; there are varied customs from town to
town, and family to family. However marigolds are the traditional flower of the Dia
de la Muerto.
their loved ones. Yet insome areas, children dress up and go around begging for
money, but do not knock on doors. Some people take a much more personal
approach and have the deceased tattooed on them, or have elaborate dolls made of
their loved ones.

Another celebration is a candle-lit boat procession (Mariposas) making their way to
the island of Janitzio on Lake Pátzcuaro and then to Janitzio's Church and graveyard,
remaining there for the night for a large festive vigil with much imbibing involved.
This is a main activity on this island.

This holiday is so important to the Hispanic culture that schools and the governments
also build shrines, but leave the religious items off the display.
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El Dia De Los Muertos
For more than 400 years, The Day of the Dead has been a celebration of the dead,
featuring parades, feasts, decoration and alters, paying reverence to one's deceased
loved ones. Practiced originally by the Aztecs and the Mayans.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern
Mexican holiday to indigenous observances
dating back hundreds of years and to an
Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess
Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread
throughout the world: In Brazil, Dia de
Finados is a public holiday that many
Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries
and churches. In Spain, there are festivals
and parades, and, at the end of the day,
people gather at cemeteries and pray for
their dead loved ones. Similar observances
occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly
.

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