In the Spanish tradition, El Día de Todos los Santos is celebrated the first of November. In this day, the families go to the cemetery to visit the grave of their loved ones. It is traditional to clean and decorate the graves with flowers and other accessories such as candles and photos.
Spanish people understand this festivity as a moment of remembrance of those loved ones who are already gone. It is a sad commemoration as we understand death as a moment of grief and great sadness.
To make this day a little bit more bearable, bakeries prepare typical sweets of this day as Huesitos de Santo which symbolise lovingly those relatives who
passed away. They have a circular and elongated shape and are made of
marzipan. They have different colours and although, originally were filled with sweet egg yolk cream, nowadays we can find different flavours as chocolate, coffee, pistacho, strawberry, etc. or the buñuelos de viento (nuns puffs) whose origins date back to the II century B.C. when the roman Catón, the old mentioned a sweet recipe called balloon. These sweets look like small soft balls filled with chocolate, cream, coffee or chocolate truffle.
However, not all the cultures celebrate death in the same way. I have been so lucky to count on Paola, a Mexican friend living in London and this is what she has told me about this particular festivity celebrated during two days: the first of November when Mexicans commemorated the deceased children and the second of November when they remember all the deceased souls but in a merrier way as they believe that the souls of their loved ones come back to be with the living.
Therefore, the relatives prepare un altar de muertos with different levels. If the altar has two levels, those represent heaven and earth. If there are three levels, the third one is the purgatory and seven levels represent the steps to arrive to the eternal rest.
In every Altar de Muertos , you cannot miss the next elements:
Un vaso de agua, in case, the soul is thirsty after the long way from the other side.
Una fotografía of the death person.
Los cirios y veladoras which represent the light, the faith and the hope in between this world and the other side. If the candles have a purple decoration this mean grief for the loved ones. If the candles are placed in a cross shape, this represent the four cardinal points which shows the way home to the visitant soul.
La flor Cempasúchil which is orange and guides the soul with its smell to the living side.
El papel picado which represents the joy together with the favourite food of the death relative as it is thought the soul feeds itself with smell of the platillos and las calaveras de azúcar decorated with vegetal paint of different colours which represent the death.
La sal which it is the purifier element which helps the body to do not get corrupted. It is a very special symbol in the celebration of the Day of the Death.
Lastly, el pan de muerto which represents the skeleton of the deceased relative. It is a sweet bread eaten together with a hot chocolate.
In conclusion, All Saints Day and the Day of the Death
is a tradition where we remember our love ones with the hope that one day we will get reunited again.
These are traditions that we must preserve and protect so future generations can enjoy them too.