Monday, October 27, 2014

Gearing up for Los Dias de Muertos

It is that time of year when many parts of Mexico are gearing up for the festivities of Los Dias de Muertos, The Days of the Dead.  This traditional holiday from October 31 - November 2 honors departed ancestors, friends and family.
The markets explode with huge displays of deep yellow-orange marigolds (flores de Cempasuchil), vibrant magenta Cockscomb (Cresta de Gallo) and Baby's Breath (Aliento de Nino), all sold for decorating of altars and graves.  The Cempasuchil dates back to Aztec times, the flower of 400 lives.
This woman was in the courtyard of the Valencia Church, just north of Guanajuato, selling flowers for home altars.
 I was blown away by the length of these sunflowers  and Calla Lilies.  
Stalls popped up over night in front of the Oratoria church in San Miguel de Allende.
You will find countless candles of all sizes in white and different shades of orange along with papel picados (for more on papel picados, see my post on 5/21/2014).
Shelf after shelf of sugar art in all shapes.  Sugar art was originally brought to the new World in the 1600's by Italian missionaries.  This tradition of sugar lambs and angels were made to decorate the side altars in the churches at Easter time.  At the time, Mexico was rich in sugar production but too poor to buy the elaborate decorations from Europe.  The friars taught the locals to the make the sugar art for their own religious occasions.
Sugar skulls represents the soul of a departed love one and often have the name of that person on it.  They are created by using a clay mold and then decorated with colorful icings, shiny tin foil and glitter.
I was particularly impressed with the little molcajetes with its tejolote (the indispensable piece of kitchen gear, the volcanic rock mortar and pestle) filled with guacamole.  Food offerings (afrendas) are a very important part of the ritual.
It's a festive time of year and a great time to wander around the different stalls to see which each stall has to offer.
Last year I had a great time decorating for my Dias de Muertos dinner party.  The table cloth is some fabric that I had bought in Oaxaca at this huge fabric store.  Of course when I got home, I hemmed it by hand. 
Every time I went to the market, I had to buy another piece of sugar art.  
Just wait until you see how I am decorating my table this year!

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