General_Information about the Day of the Dead
Mexicans look upon dying as one more misfortune to contend with, but they also regard it as the ultimate liberation. This attitude stems from the Nahuatl-speaking peoples of pre-Columbian México, who viewed skeletons and other results of death as symbolizing life. Therefore, the Day of the Dead in México has become an annual national holiday whose importance and festivities are unmatched in any other part of the world.
Four days before and after the Day of the Dead (November 2), death is present everywhere in México. It leers invitingly from bakery windows where the special "panes de muertos" (breads of the dead) are made in animal and human form. In the candy stores, wonderful sugar skulls are prepared with peoples' names printed in the icing. These are often exchanged as gifts by friends and loved ones. Newspapers publish satirical verses, called "calaveras" (skulls), in which humorous epitaphs are used to praise or criticize important people throughout the country. The performance of the famous play Don Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla is commonly staged in many cities. The dead's relatives clean the graves, and decorate them with natural and paper flowers, dishes of food and candles.
Beginning on November 1, incense and candles (one for each remaining dead soul) are strategically placed in order to light the way to the family altar. In many places, families make a path of marigold petals from the sidewalk to the family altar so that the souls will recognize their way. In addition, everyone goes to mass, and children are given toys with the appearance and image of death.
It is believed that on November 1, souls of children who have died return home, and on November 2, the souls of the adults come back. Since no soul should be deprived of the food it liked best during life, special dishes of food are prepared. The souls of children are supplied with all kinds of candy, fruit, hot chocolate, atole (a nourishing beverage made with corn meal), and other favorite foods. The adult souls in addition receive a small supply of their favorite alcoholic drinks.
On November 2, the number of candles and dishes of food increases. Pumpkins and special varieties of bread are baked in many shapes, sizes and colors (sometimes
the loaves are enormous and represent humans). Sometimes, part of the food is taken to the cemetery along with marigold flowers, and placed at the grave of the soul. There, the family and friends stays until dawn of November 3.