• Deborah Kade

Día de los Muertos

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

November 2, 2019. Celebrated Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden.

Day of the Dead is rooted in Mesoamerican pagan rituals.

The Day of the Dead does not celebrate death, instead it revels in the life of the deceased. On this day, it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living family members.

Families spread bulks of marigold petals, light candles for their loved ones and some family members even wear colorful skull makeup. It's Día de los Muertos!

The Mexican holiday, also known as Day of the Dead, extends over the first two days of November and has nothing to do with Halloween. It's an ode to the afterlife and a reminder that death is nothing to be afraid of.

Skulls were a powerful symbol in the Aztec culture, and some were used as tribute to Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of death. Day of the Dead originally landed on the ninth month of the Aztec calendar and was observed for the entire month. In the 20th century, the month long festivities were condensed to 3 days called The Days of the Dead: Halloween on October 31, Day of the Innocents on November 1, and Day of the Dead on November 2.

People carefully build altars for the dead. The holiday is a time to celebrate the lives of family members, friends and even celebrities whom have died.

The colorful multi-level memorials are built in homes, schools and public places as a tribute to deceased loved ones. The different levels represent the underworld, Earth and heaven.

A large photo of the deceased is usually placed at the very top of the altar with papel picado. Sugar skulls, candles, pan de muerto (dead man's bread) and Mexican marigolds are featured throughout the altar.

Near the entrance to the Garden, Felipa Lerma built this community altar.

The pungent scent and bright color of fresh marigold petals are meant to guide the spirits to their altars, and glasses of water are handy to quench the thirst of the dead after their long journey.

Some people camp out at the tombs of their deceased loved ones. People flock to cemeteries through the holiday to visit the graves of dead relatives and friends. They are not mourning or empty-handed. After cleaning the graves and headstones, some decorate with flowers, marigold petals, and light candles. While some come to pray in silence, others serenade their lost loved ones with mariachis.

People make their way to the grave sites every year to keep the memory of the deceased alive in their hearts and in the minds of their family members. They share stories, drink and eat together as if it were a party.

There was an Exhibition of Ofrendas at the Webster Center.

Visitors to the Garden were provided with a variety of entertainment.

There were dancers.

Musicians from the Harmony Project Youth Orchestra

Mariachi band

The Day of the Dead parades and costumes are meant to celebrate life rather than be spooky.

In cities and towns, people parade through the streets with beautiful skulls painted on their faces and wearing costumes to commemorate Día de los Muertos.

Women usually paint their faces, wear elegant dresses and hats adorned with feathers and flowers.

They are actually evoking "La Catrina," a rich skeleton lady in a fancy floral hat. The image, sketched by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada in 1910, was political satire that mocked Mexico's upper-class and their negative attitude toward indigenous people.

Crowds dance in cheerful parades held during the day in numerous cities, or parade together on their way to cemeteries the night of Halloween.

At the Desert Botanical Garden, the parade wound through the different pathways. Then, a ceremony was held adjacent to the Deseret Terrace Garden and the Butterfly Pavilion. The setting sun provided a perfect backdrop.

A parade of characters marched in to drumming. The mariachi band soon joined in. It was quite a festive atmosphere!

The mariachi band played during the ceremony. The singer had a lovely voice.

We could write our worries on a piece of paper. Two ladies collected the papers.

Then she burned the papers.

Our worries were to be burned in the flames and carried away on the wind.

The master of ceremony asked for a minute of silence to honor our departed loved ones. We could also call out their names to be remembered.

The dancing couple faced the setting sun. It was time for the spirits to leave. Before they did, the audience was asked to join them in a final dance.

The sunset did not disappoint.

We could see part of the moon.

Planes taking off from Sky Harbor Airport.

We held candles for our departed loved ones.

Our loved ones know how much we love them and miss them.


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