Tag Archives: Day of the Dead

Día de los Muertos: November 1–2

Fascination with the Morbs © Cynthia Frenette from our Day of the Dead 2021 wall calendar. Click for more info.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween.

Though related, the two annual events differ greatly in traditions and tone. Whereas Halloween is a dark night of terror and mischief, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, revelers don elaborate makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones.

Day of the Dead originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.

Literary Calaveras
Calavera means “skull.” But during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, calavera was used to describe short, humorous poems, which were often sarcastic tombstone epitaphs published in newspapers that poked fun at the living. These literary calaveras eventually became a popular part of Día de los Muertos celebrations. Today the practice is alive and well. You’ll find these clever, biting poems in print, read aloud, and broadcast on television and radio programs.

The Calavera Catrina
In the early 20th century, Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French garb and called it Calavera Garbancera, intending it as social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos somos calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our manmade trappings, we are all the same.

In 1947 artist Diego Rivera featured Posada’s stylized skeleton in his masterpiece mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.” Posada’s skeletal bust was dressed in a large feminine hat, and Rivera made his female and named her Catrina, slang for “the rich.” Today, the calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, is the Day of the Dead’s most ubiquitous symbol.

Altars
The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar, or ofrenda, built in private homes and cemeteries. These aren’t altars for worshipping; rather, they’re meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living. As such, they’re loaded with offerings—water to quench thirst after the long journey, food, family photos, and a candle for each dead relative. If one of the spirits is a child, you might find small toys on the altar. Marigolds are the main flowers used to decorate the altar. Scattered from altar to gravesite, marigold petals guide wandering souls back to their place of rest. The smoke from copal incense, made from tree resin, transmits praise and prayers and purifies the area around the altar.

Source: National Geographic by Logan Ward


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Dreaming of 2021… Wall Calendars, Planners, and Desk Pads 

Celebrating Samhain

Image from The Haunted Realm 2019 wall calendar featuring photos by Sir Simon Marsden. Click image for more info.

Because I am resolutely pagan, we’re going to be celebrating the beginning of the dark half of the year old school at my house Wednesday night (October 31). For starters we’re going to make a big feast of a dinner and set a plate aside for our dead ancestors. I always make biscuits using my granddad’s recipe. We’ll make white gravy and eggs and coffee with cream and sugar just the way Granddad liked it. That plate will stay out on the table all night. We’ll stay home and give out candy to the trick-or-treaters, because our teenage daughter is too old for mom and pop’s company tonight. Understood. At some point in the evening we’ll tie knots into a piece of string or leather or yarn, and just as we yank the knot tight we’ll yank into it something we want to let go off in the coming year. And then we’ll throw that knot into the roaring fire in our fireplace. Sometime after that we’ll build a fire in our backyard and jump over it to make wishes come true. We’ll jump over that big fire and just at the top we’ll make our wish. We’ve been doing this every year for 25 years. When we couldn’t get pregnant, we wished for children. We don’t do that anymore. Continue reading

Halloween — Day of the Dead — Sugar Skulls

Day of the Dead 2018 wall calendar

Image from our Day of the Dead 2018 wall calendar. Skull Art Queen with Butterflies © Xrista Stavrou. Click for more info.

Halloween, falling as it does on the start of the darkest time of the year, focuses on those who have departed. In the United States, on October 31, the emphasis may be on ghosts, monsters, and scary pumpkin faces, but in earlier times, and in other cultures, this is the time to honor the dead.

In Mexico, indigenous customs mingled with the Spanish Catholic celebration of All Souls’ Day on November 1 (“Halloween” is an abbreviated version of All Hallows’ Eve), during which people pray for those who have died. The resulting holiday, Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), is a joyful celebration of those who have died. Continue reading

Review — Day of the Dead: Sugar Skulls 2015 Wall Calendar

Day of the Dead 2015 wall calendarOur skull art loving friend, Anna at Skullspiration, posted a review of our 2015 wall calendar: Continue reading

Día de los Muertos Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebrations in Mexico honor those who have passed and serve as a memento mori to remind us of our own mortality. Greeting the Grim Reaper with a grin and an elbow to the bony ribs, art celebrating Day of the Dead depict skeletons – both human and animal – engaging in everyday activities, affirming there is indeed life after death.

Day of the Dead 2014 Calendar

Day of the Dead – Sugar Skull Calendar. Cover art by John Warner.

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14 New Calendar Titles for 2014

We have an amazing lineup of new calendars this year, including Farm to Table, Tree Huggers, Lunaria and Sacred Celtic Sites. We’re also bringing back an old favorite, Hafiz, with Persian-inspired illuminations from  Silas Toball, designer extraordinaire and co-creator of our best-selling Duirwaigh card line.  Other new titles include Steampunk, Day of the Dead, Bee Happy, The Garden Sanctuary and On Sacred Ground. We are also adding four new titles to our Healthy Pet series: Healthy Dachshund, Healthy Golden, Healthy Lab and Healthy Pug.

Bee Happy Calendar Sacred Celtic Sites Calendar Day of the Dead — Sugar Skulls Calendar Garden Sanctuary Calendar The Healthy Dachshund The Healthy Golden The Healthy Lab The Healthy Pug Lunaria Calendar Steampunk Calendar Tree Huggers Calendar Farm to Table Calendar Hafiz Calendar On Sacred Ground Calendar

As we move forward with our mission to illuminate spirit in the world, we remain mindful of our responsibility to the planet we share. We are full of optimism and goodwill, and we extend our deepest gratitude to our customers, artists, authors, representatives and friends all over the world.

Namaste — Amber Lotus Publishing