– When the winds begin to blow in October many Mexicans believe that it is the dead returning.
– In rural areas and in some parts of cities, people make a trail of flower petals leading from outside their house into where they have placed a special altar for the dead. This is to help guide the spirits to the altar.
– In rural communities they decorate entire streets with beautiful designs using flower petals.
– The traditional altar for the dead includes seven distinct levels that represent the seven steps leading to the place of the dead, Mictlán. The altar includes the following main items…
- a picture of the deceased
- the favorite food and drink of the deceased
- other things that were special to the deceased
- the traditional pan de muertos (bread of the dead)… This is normally a round bread with a design that symbolizes a skull and bones. All of this is related to the ancient practice of human sacrifice.
- arrangements of a special flower called cempaxúchitl (orange color)
- candles and incense
- a colorful tissue paper that has a varied cut-out design (often related to skeletons)… When this paper moves the family believes that the dead loved one(s) has arrived.
- candy skulls made out of chocolate, sugar, and amaranto (The amaranto skulls were originally part of human sacrifice practices. The amaranto was stuck together in the form of skulls using human blood from the sacrifices.)
– The basic belief is that the dead do not actually physically consume the food, but rather that they consume the essence or aroma of the food.
– After the dead have departed, the food and drink can be consumed, and is often shared as a special gift with friends and neighbors.