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November festivals (part 1)

November festivals (part 1)

The month of November is just around the corner so we better start looking into the many November festivals and celebrations around the world that you can schedule a trip around.

Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) – Oaxaca, Mexico

This is quite possibly the most Carnivalesque remembrance of departed souls anywhere on the planet, which makes it by far one of the planet’s most universally familiar festivals. The paper-mache skeletons and candy skulls are almost as recognizable as Halloween jack-o’-lanterns.

This is part of a belief system inherited from the Aztecs, they believe their dead are lurking in Mictlan, a sort of spiritual waiting room, and they can return to their real world homes during this time of year. In order for this to happen families have to make some preparations in order to help the spirits find their way home, starting with an arch made of bright-yellow marigolds which is meant to be a symbolic doorway from the underworld. Then an altar is erected and piled high with gifts to the invisible visitors, usually flowers, ribbons, colored candles, tamales, fruit and corn, but more importantly a container of water – because the spirits arrive thirsty after their journey, and pan de muertos – bread of the dead. The loaf is made with egg yolks, fruits and tequila or mescal and is either adorned with or shaped as a symbol of death.

The celebration lasts for two days, the first one is called Dia de Angelitos or Day of Little Angels, it is dedicated to dead children, and the toys they once loved are placed on the altar.

The rituals are very important if the household went through a bereavement in the previous year with women spending all day cooking the favorite food of the dead relative for the customary feast when friend and family gather to toast the ghostly visitors.

Witnessing this festival is quite a unique experience and you cannot get into it without being both fascinated and even a bit confronted by the idea of your own mortality.

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