The Day of the Dead is a popular Mexican celebration to honor the deceased. It takes place on November 2, although it starts to be celebrated from the first day.
In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep the skulls as trophies and to show them during the rituals that symbolized death and rebirth.
In Mexico this festival represents the epitome of Mexicanness. It is known that since at least 3,000 years ago the Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations celebrated rituals for their deceased. The Aztecs, a town known for its strong relationship with death, had a festivity in honor of the deceased that lasted throughout the ninth month of its calendar, a festival presided
over by Mictecacíhuatl, Señora de los Muertos. In several archaeological sites you can see the zompantli, a small pyramid with skulls sculpted to honor the warriors killed in battle.
According to tradition, the first day of November is dedicated to those who died as children and the day 2 to those who died in adulthood. Among the places that are most frequented to witness this festivity are the towns of Patzcuaro and Janitzio, in Michoacán, as well as Xochimilco and the town of Mixquic, south of the Federal District.
Although it is seen primarily as a Mexican holiday, it is also celebrated in many communities in the United States where there is a large Mexican-American population, and to a lesser extent it is also celebrated in some parts of Latin America.
The popular belief is that the souls of the loved ones who left us return from beyond the grave during the Day of the Dead. For this reason, they are received with an offering where they place their favorite food and drink, fruit, sweet calaveritas and, if necessary, toys for the children. The Day of the Dead is tradition to erect a domestic altar, also called an altar of the dead, with
offerings in homage to the dead. In it they put food (the traditional bread of the dead), drinks, clothes, valuables, ornaments, skulls, flowers (cempasúchil flower) and aromatic herbs; with all this, what is intended is to receive and give the dead man as a sign of affection and remembrance.
In Mexico death is perceived in a very peculiar way, because Mexicans use satire to make fun of it.An example of this expression is the famous "Catrina" : a skull popularized by the engraver and caricaturist José Guadalupe Posadas.Traditionally, the Catrina wears the dress of a lady of high society, as proof of the presence of death in the daily life of all social strata.
In the celebration of the Day of the Dead sweet calaveritas are not the only protagonists. Mexican popular culture finds diverse means of expression to show its feelings for this tradition. Among the most popular are the famous literary skulls, which consist of rhymed verses that ironize situations of popular and unpopular characters using the theme of death with a humorous intention.