Travel Pics Theme: M for Mexico. Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead pottery

Day of the Dead pottery

This week’s travel theme is Mexico and we are going to consider the similarities – and the differences – with its neighbour to the north.

At roughly the same time as kids in the US are celebrating Halloween, south of the border it’s the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos.

But while there may appear to be similarities at first, the two are in fact quite different festivals.

Halloween, it could be argued, began as a Christian hijacking of the pagan rituals of Samhain – where fires would be lit, and costumes worn, to ward off the ghosts of those who had died over the previous year.

That morphed into the festival that is modern Halloween, where children go trick-or-treating, and where the whole community gets involved.

Dia de los Muertos, on the other hand, is a much more personal, family-based event.

Until recent years, there were none of the major community Day of the Dead celebrations (as shown in the James Bond movie Spectre) – but instead, the day was celebrated privately at altars in peoples homes and at cemeteries.

In some towns, there would also be a feast in the market.

But the biggest difference between Halloween and Dia de los Muertos is in the treatment of the dead.

You remember I mentioned that Samhain (the genesis of Halloween) was all about chasing away ghosts and ghoulies?

In the Day of the Dead, the exact opposite holds true.

The festival, which dates back to Aztec times, is a celebration of the dead – and an invitation to the spirits of ancestors to return and see how their descendants are doing.

Colourful skulls are everywhere in Mexico leading up to the festival. Some are made from spun sugar (a technique that dates back to the 18th century in Mexico) – but these days pottery skulls are more common, as seen here on a  souvenir stall we spotted in the state of Jalisco.

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