Festivals Mexico

Mexico has a reputation for colourful celebrations and festivals. Almost every month there is a national holiday or fiesta and each town celebrates the feast day of its' own patron saint. Some of the most colourful festivals:

Festival - Los dias de los muertos (Day(s) of the Dead) 1-2 November:
Mexico's famed celebration commemorating the dead is a lively, personal and touching celebration: "los dias de los muertos". It is a period in which the living commemorate their deceased ancestors, and where the dead have the opportunity to visit the homes and the families they have left. The party is in some places spectacular, with street festivals, parades, handing out of gifts and plenty to eat and drink. The intensity of the Mexican attitude toward death can be confusing and overwhelming for anyone not familiar with it.
The origins of the celebration of the Days of the Dead is set in the mythological world of Mexico from pre-Hispanic times. At that time there was a whole month dedicated to the spirits of the deceased. Formerly this feast was celebrated in July-August, but with the advent of the Catholic settlers, the festivities moved to Catholic holidays All Saints and All Souls Day on November 1 and 2.
In most areas of modern Mexico, there are actually two Days of the Dead: Dia de los Angelitos, celebrated on November 1 which is dedicated to the souls of deceased children, and Dias de Los Muertos itself, that is on November 2 when the spirits of deceased adults are celebrated. The festivities sometimes overlap with Halloween, on October 31. Such as with Christmas or Halloween in other parts of the world, preparations begin for the festival of the Days of the Dead for weeks in advance. Stores are overloaded with decorative paper skulls, morbid lanterns, costumes, plastic skeletons and candy. Food is all home cooked and special commemorative altars are erected everywhere. Food and drink are an increasingly important part to the celebration. In some areas, entire families go on extensive picnics in local cemeteries. Also they leave food behind on the graves, next to the pictures of the deceased and copal (sort of incense). Many people take radios back to the cemetery, which now are part of the tradition with the family friendly singalong songs blaring about the cemeteries. The children are fully involved in the festivities. For them it is a kind of Christmas, they get all kinds of (spooky) sweets and surprises, from marzipan coffins to chocolate skeletons, toy skulls or dancing skeleton marionettes.
The Dia de los Angelitos is a sad affair. Favourite toys and other objects that recall the deceased children are laid on alters. The spirits of the young dead are then invited to come and visit and participate in the party. Often there is an extra seat for them put out at the table.
The second day, the Dia de Los Muertos, is the most important day of the feast. In many places on the main squares and streets it is celebrated with street festivals and parades with bright colours, uplifting music and dance. In the evening, there are some places lit by candlelight processions. In other villages such as San Cristobal de las Casas, the festival is celebrated in a subdued manor. A large part of the day is generally spent in the cemetery, and in the evening there is a traditional communal meal, where the "bread of the dead (pan de los muertos) is consumed. Often this bread contains a small bone or something else of the deceased, and those that get the aforementioned piece are considered lucky, because it is seen as a sign of prosperity and happiness!

Festival - Virgin de Guadalupe, December 12:
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a festival that is important for the native Indian population of Mexico and is celebrated annually on December 12 as "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe''. Some of our travellers will be in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas at the time, this will form part of the itinerary.

*December 12: We are today in San Cristobal de las Casas. There are many pilgrims who have come down to the city in connection with the feast of the Virgin of Guadeloupe. The festival is celebrated annually on 12 December at various Mexican locations. Running a relay in groups, while bearing a burning torch, huge numbers of pilgrims arrive in the town. In order to increase the joy there is a big market with lots of snacks and drinks. Pilgrims gather in the churches. Occasionally there is a procession where someone is dressed as the Virgin, or simply as an angel. It all has a very special feeling.
San Cristobal de las Casas is surrounded by many fascinating villages of the Tzotzil, and Tzeltzal Tzojolabal Indians. The Indians from the villages come to town to sell their colourful woven products. Today you can visit two of the surrounding Indian villages: San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan.
San Juan Chamula is a small village with a striking white church whose entrance is richly painted. A visit to the church makes a deep impression, especially now that the party is here because the Virgin of Guadalupe. The ground is strewn with pine needles and between the rows of candles you will see saints kneeling for various rituals. There is music, singing, prayers and sacrifices: fruits, vegetables, coca cola and some chickens. John the Baptist is the most important figure in this village, more important than Jesus or Mary, and almost as important as the sun! In the village Zinacantan the men are distinguished from other men from the area by their typical dress, red and white striped tunics and flat, round, straw hats with colourful ribbons. It is mostly forbidden to take pictures in these villages because the residents believe they are losing their soul when they are photographed.

A Mayan Indian is generally deeply religious. Magical religious practices determine his life. He feels dependent on supernatural powers and tries to please the gods with sacrifices and prayers. The Indians experience a great connection with nature, so everyone has a protective animal (nahual) and most of the ceremonies and rituals take place at the top of a hill or mountain, which is considered sacred. There is a fusion of traditional indigenous beliefs with Catholicism, which the Spaniards brought from Europe. This combination of religious practices is referred to as syncretism. In the processions during major holidays, for example, the Catholic saints are dressed in Indian attire and carried aloft.

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