It's El Dia De Los Muertos, Charlie Brown
Halloween may have come and gone but that just means that the better of the Holidays is here and ready to be enjoyed to its fullest. Day of the Dead.
So what is this crazy Mexican dead person Christmas all about? Well, honoring friends and family who have passed on. The idea was that on this all souls day, a tradition that goes back all the way to the indigenous people of the Americas such as the Aztec, Maya, Purepecha, Totonac and so forth. Then when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in America in the 15th century they were freaked out by these pagan festivitie and since Catholicism always tries to swallow up a ritual, the month long celebration of the dead that the natives carried out were then condensed down to two days by the conquerors and the creation of All Saints Day and All Souls Day occurred.
Oddly enough, now that the Spanish and Latin blood is all jumbled together, the celebrations seem to have a sort of mixture of the two cultures. Dia De Los Muertos seems to go on for the 9 days leading up to All Souls Day, November 2nd on the Calendar. As you can see, us Latins sure like to party long after your Halloween hangover is gone.
Part of the festivities is to honor your ancestors by leaving offerings of food and treats out. The building of alters are done so in a hope that they will come and visit as it is the belief that on all souls day/Dia De Los Muertos, the dead walk among the living. Oddly enough this belief isn't specific only to Latin cultures. In ancient Celtic celebrated their own holiday like this called Samhain. In which the souls of the dead wander on October 31st - November 1st and was their New Years celebration as the departed moved on to the next world.
But going back to the Day of the Dead celebrations in Spanish culture. One of the most common things you'll see is people wearing make up to look like the walking dead/skeletons roaming the earth. This again goes back to the idea that your loved ones walk the earth on this day. Only decomposition may have kicked in and thus, to blend in, and much like the whole notion of dressing up for Halloween, it's another melting pot outcome.
The notion is that they'll be walking the earth and to make them feel at home, you gotta hide your face in a layer of caked on white powder. Sure, why not. And speaking of skulls, one thing you can often find is Sugar Skulls. These are little skulls that are made entirely of diabetes inducing levels of sugar and are decorated with the names of the person you're remembering. Though you can put the names of folks still alive on it without any problem.
Pan de Muerto is a sweatend soft bread that looks like a huge bun. You can also put the faces/names of those who you are celebrating the life/death of it and they're easy to come by leading up to Dia De Los Muertos.
Another important food item for the day is Chocolate. In ancient Mexico they used to use Cacao beans as currency and they would bury someone with a couple of beans on their persons so that they would have a little spending cash in the afterlife. So it should come to no surprise that Day of the Dead uses Chocolate drinks as a big part of it.
If drinks filled with alcohol are more your style in remembering the dead, then Los Angeles has you covered. Las Perlas has a special Los Muertos drink that would be perfect for this holiday. The drink is a blend of Espolon Reposado tequila, muddled apple, cardamom amaro, apple butter infused agave, lime juice and apple cider vinegar shrub. It's topped with an apple cider foam and a swirl of black strap molasses.
Or you could hit up the hipster centric area and go to The Thirsty Crow has the "Jack Skellington", a pumpkin, sapling Vermont maple liqueur, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram with a graham cracker crust rim. Which I guess will go great between now and Christmas if you're into the Nightmare Before Christmas.
Well, no matter how you celebrate it or if you go to any festivities such as the one for Self Help Graphics, Day of the Dead is one of those holidays that has a significant meaning for me and always will. So as much as it sucked for me to drop and break my first sugar skull a couple of weeks back, I'm looking positive towards the day and festivities!
Feliz Dia De Los Muertos.