Oaxaca Day of the Dead, History
The Day of the Dead Festival in Oaxaca is a three-day November holiday when families clean the graves and prepare the tombs for the return of the spirits. During this time flowers decorate the tombs and home altars. Families leave offerings for the spirits in the home and at the cemetery, they leave paths of flower petals to guide the spirits..
A visit to the cemeteries near Oaxaca on the first two nights of November can be a magical time because of the thousands of candles and the marigolds and cockscomb flowers that decorate the tombs. Each village celebrates at different times and with different intensity but the evenings are sure to be unique as families come to the graveyards to sit by the tombs and wait for the spirits to return.
The markets are full of flowers that the families will use to decorate their home altars and tombs Marigold and cockscomb are the flowers with special meaning. The marigold is called the Fleur de Meurto, the flour of death. In the evening the family sits by the tomb and waits for the return of the spirits.
In the new cemetery of XoXo Cotlon, artist Juan Cruz Pascual decorates with a sand painting replete with Christian motifs
In the town of Tlalixtac south of Oaxaca City the families sit by
the decorated tombs while brass bands move through the cemetery
Part of the excitement of the season in Oaxaca comes when the shops, hotels, and restaurants in the cosmopolitan city decorate with candles and flower petals in artistic display
Chocolate is a new world plant and used to decorate the altars.
Spreading flowers to lead to the grave site is a common ritual.
.During Oaxaca's Day Of The Dead the indigenous people decorate their home altars with marigold flowers, chocolate, loaves of special bread, and candles.
On the last day of October they decorate their tombs with flowers and candles.
They invite visitors to come to the cemetery as they sit by the graveside in a night vigil of waiting for the return of the spirits.
The Spanish Christianized the indigenous people after the conquest and united Christian All Saints Day with the pagan ritual formerly celebrated in August.
Oaxaca Day of the Dead celebration is a combination of European and indigenous rites. The use of Marigold flowers and the spreading of flower petals in a trail to the grave and the inclusion of chocolate in the building of an offering are all of pre-Hispanic origin.
Oaxaca City offers hotels from 3 to 5 star, a modern jet airport with direct flight to Houston, auto rentals and private tours for the Day of the Dead cemetery visits. Oaxaca City becomes an exciting place to be during the week before the festival with music, art exhibits on the streets, museum exhibitions, and the decorating of altars in the hotels and restaurants. Oaxaca's hotels and shops decorate their entry ways with candles and Marigold flowers and the restaurants feature the regional cuisine of Oaxaca as they spend the last week of October preparing for Oaxaca's Day of the Dead.
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The people of remote villages having meager means to buy the cultivated Marigold, will harvest the wild plant and use it to construct their offerings. (Ofrenda, an altar of sorts with gifts for the dead) They will remove the petals from the flower and spread them on the ground to make a path to the house and to the grave. The pungent aroma of the marigold and the bright color of the yellow petals will guide the spirit to the home altar (ofrenda) and to the cemetery.
- Marigold, The Day of the Dead Flower
The family will prepare a table on the home and decorate it with Marigold, jicama, sugar cane, and many other fruits and nuts. They will bake or buy special bread for the celebration. In the evening they will have a traditional meal of chocolate and bread and then they will go to the graveyards to clean and decorate the cemetery plot. They will then sit during the night and wait for the return of the spirits. They hope that the path of pungent marigold petals will guide the returning spirit.
Marigold is the important flower used in celebrating the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca and throughout Mexico.
In the remote villages, the people use a wild version of the Marigold. It flowers in October and is plentiful in the fields.
In Oaxaca the indigenous people call the flower Cempasuchitl in the Nahuatl language (Aztec)
The Spanish name for the flower, flor de muerto, means flower of death.
Oaxaca Day of the Dead History goes back well before the arrival of the Spanish. The use of Marigold flowers and the spreading of flower petals in a trail to the grave and the inclusion of chocolate in the building of offering are all lead to pre-Hispanic origin
Santo Domingo Church Oaxaca
Day of the Dead cemetery visit in Oaxaca City