On the second day of November every year, many people around the world consciously or unconsciously invest a lot into celebrating the dead. Depending on whom you ask, it may be called Día de [los] muertos or All Souls’ Day or Halloween. Although all three events are centered on a similar theme, the essence of these must be clearly understood and distinguished.
Día de los muertos
This ancient tradition believed to have originated in Mexico holds a very deep meaning and has probably influenced how many people in Latin America regard their deceased loved ones. According to this tradition, it is believed that the gates between the realm of the dead and the living is open from the 31st of October to the 2nd of November every year.
This is usually a way of reuniting the dead with their living loved ones and also a window for the living to give food and encouragement to their dead who must complete the difficult journey of the road to eternity. It is also believed that the dead who do not have anyone to offer them food, prayers, or their thoughts will soon be forgotten in all dimensions.
Recorded to have originated from a Celtic tradition which involved wearing costumes of animal heads, and scary appendages in a bid to ward off the ghosts of the dead who were believed to have entered earth on the 31st of October. With the conquest of the Roman empire and the rise of Christianity, this festival transformed into what was called All Hallows Eve. This directly translates to the Eve before the celebration of all the saints and martyrs of the church celebrated on the 1st of November every year.
All Souls’ Day
Similar to the Mexican tradition, the Catholic church set aside the 2nd of November as well to offer prayers for the souls of all the dead as a way of atonement and remission for their sins. These prayers, it is believed, will shorten the days of suffering for the dead, and also give them hope in their torments.
These said, one this day, as we celebrate all those whom we have lost over the years – friends, family members, and loved ones, let us make toasts to the memories that we have of them and pray that they reach the place where they feel no pain, no sorrow. When they were with us, they would probably have done all they could to keep pain and sorrow far from us.
However, even as we remember them, let us also make another toast to the people whom we never became in this life, those selves we will never become, those stars the world would never see on account of our fears & insecurities, pessimism & self-esteem, or love & devotion. We also make cheers to those who we can still be, but probably won’t. We should reflect on these real people too because they are invaluable to who we have become and who we will be.
Feliz día de los muertos!
Chibuikem Chrysogonus Nwagwu