In the northern part of the country, some people still fearlessly take the bones of loved ones from the graves to clean and put back. In this way, they express care, love and acceptance of death.

Going to Mexico, I expected to see red earth, cacti and men in sombreros. But this country amazed me! It turned out to be much more interesting and varied than I thought. 

The most amazing thing that we managed to experience there is the traditional Day of the Dead . We spent it not on the world-famous Carnival in Mexico City, and in the town Ocoyoacac with a population of about 60 thousand .ch elovek, except where we did not have any tourist. It was a very unusual sight.  

The states on the territory of modern Mexico already existed about 3000 years ago. The indigenous people - Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs - have preserved pagan beliefs and rituals. And the Spanish conquerors in the XIV century brought the Christian faith. This is how the mix of cultures that is now characteristic of Mexico was formed. 

The ancient Maya treated death as another stage of development, for them it was not the end, but a transition to the next dimension. Therefore, they tried not to grieve about a loved one who had passed away , but to rejoice that he had moved to another level. In the era of pre-colonial civilizations, families kept the skulls of their deceased relatives in their homes and were not at all afraid of this. We were told that in the northern part of the country, some still fearlessly take the bones of loved ones from the graves in order to clean them and put them back. In this way they express care, love and acceptance of death.

It is not surprising that in Mexico the tradition has survived to this day to commemorate the dead with joy and songs once a year. Day of the Dead is a pagan holiday that has survived since the days of the Mayans and the Aztecs. It is over 2500 years old.

Why is the Day of the Dead celebrated for two days?

The Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 and 2 at local cemeteries and carnivals in the format of a real show. In some regions, dead children are commemorated on November 1, and adults are commemorated on November 2. In other states, the opposite is true. Mexicans believe that on both these days their souls come to our world to meet and communicate with the living.

In order , so they found a way, the whole city and the cemetery is decorated with candles and flowers (in Ukraine they are called "chornobrivtsі"). In homes, altars are made, on which the deceased's favorite things are collected . We went to a party in a measure of the city Ocoyoacac and made sure that this tradition is really alive. In one of the rooms, his family built an altar on almost the entire wall in honor of a deceased relative. The memorial table was decorated with flowers, candles, ribbons, sweet pastries, photographs and belongings of the deceased, his favorite food and drinks. 

We were told that such a carnival as in Mexico City and other big cities is not held here. There are no tourists here, but for themselves they make this holiday the way it was many generations ago.

What does ritual dances on the Day of the Dead mean?

In the evening we went to the Okoyoakaka cemetery to see everything with our own eyes. 

At the entrance, under an arch with Christian icons, people danced rhythmic dances in colorful costumes. It was evident that these were not fancy dresses rented for the sake of the occasion. They were very well made and seemed old, but perfectly preserved. The dancers' heads were decorated with long feathers, which symbolize the connection with the higher dimension.

As the guide explained to us, these people consider themselves the descendants of pre-Columbian civilizations , ancient Indians, therefore they try to reconstruct and preserve the traditions of their ancestors, pass them on to their children. Their faces were painted in black and white, but this was not the makeup tourists usually do at carnivals. Horizontal lines, dots, patterns. Each dancer had some kind of death symbol attached to the costume - a skull, crossbones or a cross. Some wore a skull-shaped helmet on their heads. 

 

In this action, we were amazed that the inhabitants of Okoyoacaca really did this not for tourists (we were the only "outsiders" there), but for themselves, their history and the memory of those who lived before them. The costumes worn at parades on the Day of the Dead in major cities were not seen here. Except for children. There were tents in the city where the children were helped to change clothes and put on intimidating makeup.  

Celebrating Day of the Dead in a cemetery

The cemetery was lit by numerous lamps and candles. On the graves there were many sweets in the form of coffins, crosses and skeletons, favorite things and food of the deceased - from cola to cigarettes. 

There were a lot of people, people were having fun, someone sang fiery songs with a guitar. Families were sitting near the graves, remembering their relatives, telling funny stories about them, eating. On the Day of the Dead, buns and sweets are baked, which symbolize that death is sweet, there is no need to be afraid of it.

On one of the gravestones, the parents left their daughter, about five years old, and went somewhere on their own business, and this at 12 at night!

After going through the whole cemetery, we got to the place where the Catholic ceremony was held. There was a completely different atmosphere here: people are serious and sad, they talked quietly, some were crying, we saw priests and crosses.

It was such a contrast! Some 100 meters and a huge difference in perception of the world. But at one o'clock in the morning there was a connection of the incompatible - these two different movements went to meet each other, united into one common stream and went through the city to the Christian church to celebrate Mass.

Another ritual

In addition to the Day of the Dead, Goodwin and I also attended an ancient ritual that reflects the Mexican belief in rebirth after death. It took place in a temazcal - a traditional Mexican clay bath with a narrow round entrance, inside of which it is dark and very hot. During the ritual, the shaman pours various oils and herbal infusions onto the hot coals, knocks on a drum and hums something.

Temazcal has become so popular that it is even installed in hotels, but it is more like a regular sauna . We were lucky to pass the ceremony in an authentic place. The shaman who saw him off said that for the first time he was doing it for tourists, usually only locals come to him. The bath itself symbolizes the bosom of the earth, the whole ritual is the rebirth and purification of a person. 

Mexico amazed us at every corner, and we really wanted to repeat this trip next year in order to get even better acquainted with its culture and try to unravel the secrets of bygone civilizations.