When I learned that I would be in Mexico in October and November, I was thrilled: I'd be here for Day of the Dead! Officially, it's All Soul's Day, but there's huge lead-up to the holiday. This holiday has its roots in ancient indigenous civilization. It's NOT Halloween, and is not scary, but is a joyous celebration of the ancestors (Kent reminded me that it's not much different from the "begats" in Genesis). All over Mexico, people create altars (ofrendas), display skulls and skeletons, eat pan de muerto and have a giant party. Families go to the cemetery to clean the graves and have a good time.
Though it's not Halloween, in recent years, some of the trappings of Halloween have come into Mexican culture: children dress up and hold out plastic jack-o'lanterns for candy or money.
Marigolds are traditionally used in the ofrendas, as are offerings of food, sugar (or clay) skulls, skeletons dressed as upper-class ladies. Some of the ofrendas are very personal, showing pictures of family or friends who have died. Some are political, some are historical, some are general. There are markets where chocolate skulls and sugar skeletons are sold. Here are some of my favorite pictures of the holiday (I'll do another post with more pictures and less chat).
This is an ofrenda I saw in a small park near my hotel.
Outside a restaurant in Queretaro, with my best skeleton smile.