The most celebrated national holiday in Spanish speaking countries, with a 3000 year old heritage and some fantastic history, Dia De Los Muertos or Day of the Dead has become a monumental occasion across the world.
Originating from where we now call Mexico, the Aztecs are the first known dignitaries. The celebration itself was a little different way back when, for instance it was held more like a festival lasted for a whole month in August. The idea was to honour their goddess of the underworld Mictecacihuatl. The idea stuck through time although a new deity was selected by the indigenous Mexican’s. They dedicated the festival to La Catrina, lady of the dead. Although you won’t know her by name she is the most recognisable of all figures involved. La Catrina was known to be selfish and didn’t care much for the poor people of Mexico and so they dressed as her to mock her. This is the skeletal lady with the fancy hat you see most commonly.
The holiday became what we know of it now when the Conquistadors (Spanish settlers) first landed in Mexico in the 16th century. Being devote Catholics they did not approve of the festivities and tried to eradicate the pagan holiday. However they didn’t expect such a large resistance from the Mexican peoples and so instead of ridding of the festival itself they decide to incorporate it with the Christian festival of All hallows eve and All Saints day. This is where we first see what we see today, the celebration was moved to be celebrated on November 1st and 2nd rather than within the month of August.
We nationally associate the time of October with Halloween or All Hallows eve, however this is not celebrated in Mexico. The day of the dead festival starts with Dia de los Innocentes (Day of little angels) started from midnight on the 31st. The idea is that this is when the heavens open and allow the children to return to earth to be with their families for 24 hours. The lives and memory of these children is celebrated by visiting the grave of their loved one and dressing it up with their favourite toys and sweets or more commonly by building an altar within their homes to enact the same thing. This is where we see the colourful skulls come from, Candied skulls are made by the families and decorated to be left for in the memory of their loved one. The skull is a composite made up of meringue and icing sugar and then decorated with bright colours. Commonly you will see plastic ones but these are very easy to make yourselves or to buy off of the internet, you need an exceptionally sweet tooth for this though.
The festival culminates on November 2nd Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This 24 hour period is the time that the adults return back to Earth to now be with their families. A very similar process is enacted with people either visiting graves or using alters within their own homes. The use of the Marigold is prevalent on this day; the flower is the symbol of the dead in Mexico and so features enormously. Unlike with the children this becomes a greater celebration incorporating the drinking of Mescal, an alcoholic beverage distilled from the agave plant in the region of Mescal.
At the Snug, we have incorporated the traditions of the festival in our fantastic drink offerings. More prominently in the Mestizo Margarita that uses the syrup of the agave plant to enhance the flavour. All our cocktails use one of Mexico’s finest tequilas in Olmeca Altos, both the Blanco and the Reposado. So, if you are out celebrating this weekend come join us for our Mexico themed evenings incorporating the Spirits of Mexico in our drinks.
Written by Ben Hollis