Historical Background of the Day of the Dead
– The origins of the Day of the Dead are in prehispanic Mexico.
– Ancestors were venerated and included in the daily life and conversation of the community.
– Death was an important part of religious belief…
- The offering of human sacrifices was believed to help sustain the universe.
- After death, each soul was guided by a dog through several steps (including the idea that the soul had to pass certain tests) in order to arrive at Mictlán, the place of the dead.
– Mictlán had several different areas to accommodate the dead, depending on how they died…
- an area for babies
- an area for women who had died while giving birth
- an area for warriors
- an area for victims of drowning
– Sometimes a concept of reincarnation was included in their beliefs.
– They believed that the dead returned to visit their family members and friends in order to help them, give them counsel, and to sometimes even reprove them.
– When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico these ancient customs were combined with Christian beliefs. That is why in modern times the Day of the Dead is celebrated in conjunction with the Christian calendar…
- November 1 – All Saints Day
- November 2 – All Souls Day
This information was compiled and adapted from a display in the Museo Amparo.