Holiday Bullion Deals: Day of The Dead

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Happy Dia de los Muertos!

Dia de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, is an important Mexican holiday taking place from October 31st to November 1st. Drawing from a different tradition than Halloween, this holiday is about honoring deceased family and welcoming them into the homes of the living for one day every year. 

History of Dia de los Muertos

The origins of Dia de los Muertos go back over 3,000 years to rituals held by the Aztecs and other Nahua people. The Nahua people believed that the universe operated on a cycle, and saw death as an ever-present and natural part of life. Upon dying, a person was believed to begin a journey through Chicunamictlán, the Land of the Dead. Chicunamictlán is said to have consisted of nine levels of challenges that the dead would work through over four years to reach Mictlán, the final resting place of the dead. Every year, beginning in August, the dead’s living family members would then leave food, water, and tools at their graves to aid them in their journey. This in turn inspired the modern practices behind Dia de los Muertos.

Current Practices

Today, families in Mexico celebrate Dia de los Muertos with feasts, altars, costumes, and parades. Though it shares some similarities with Halloween, the two holidays have entirely separate purposes. That said, the modern Dia de los Muertos has been moved to October 31st, to coincide with Halloween celebrations.

Celebrants hold that the Day of the Dead marks a weakening of the border between the spirit world and the real world. During this one day, the souls of the dead are believed to walk the Earth again, and to return to feast, drink, dance, and play music with their families. It is a time of celebration, not sadness or fear, where treasured ancestors become honored guests in the homes of their loved ones once more.

Festivities normally begin early in the day with visits to gravesites, where families will leave the deceased’s favorite food along with other offerings to guide them to the other side. They will then return home and tend to their ofrendas, which are similar altars surrounded by food, drink, photos of the deceased, and some of their favorite belongings. Ofrendas are believed to guide dead relatives to their families once they cross over to the world of the living.

Once all the offerings are sets, families will often set decorations of calacas (skeletons) and calveras (skulls), as well as make colorful sugar candy in the shape of skulls and sweet bread called pan de muerto.  Children might also dress up in traditional garb and paint their faces to look like skulls.

Skulls and skeletons are a popular symbol of the holiday, after all. This dates back to Mictecacíhuatl, the Aztec goddess of the underworld and queen of Mictlán. But in modern times, La Catrina is the most popular example of this tradition. In the early 20th century, famous Mexican printmaker and cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada authored a print named “La Calavera Catrina” that showed a traditional skeleton in a fancy French-style hat, with the intent of satirizing Mexican rich who sought to emulate European aristocracy. Posada took inspiration from Mictecacíhuatl for the design of his skeleton, and her blend of old and new has since become a well-known symbol of the holiday.

A National Holiday

Dia de los Muertos was originally a more rural holiday, celebrated largely in Southern areas with more indigenous heritage. The North, meanwhile, usually celebrated All Saints’ Day instead, which is a Christian tradition taking place on the same day. However, the holiday has picked up steam in recent years, having been made a national holiday in Mexico starting in the 1960s and recognized by UNESCO in 2008. Now, there is even a parade for the holiday in Mexico City, which began in 2016 after the 2015 James Bond film Spectre incited demand for the idea. Additionally, many Mexican emigrants worldwide celebrate the holiday as well.

Along with its James Bond cameo, Dia de los Muertos has become a regular popular culture staple. Most notable is Pixar’s 2017 movie Coco, where a young Mexican boy accidentally winds up in the Land of the Dead. Here, he must work with his dead relatives to get back to the world of the living before the border between the two closes and he’s trapped in the Land of the Dead forever.

Celebrate with Precious Metals

Bullion Exchanges carries many products for your ofrendas and other Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Our skull shaped coins will help accentuate your La Catrina decorations, and our Aztec Calendar bar will connect you to the holiday’s routes. Our Mexican gold coins and Mexican silver coins also pay tribute to the Aztecs on their reverse, where they depict a scene associated with the founding of the first temple to the Aztec sun god.

 

Coin Bullion Exchanges as we celebrate Dia de los Muertos by buying commemorative precious metals today.