Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The Day of the Dead

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 3rd November, 2015

imageBeing in Mexico for the Day of the Dead has long been something on my bucket list, but it was by fortuitous coincidence that the 60th Liberal International Congress, which finished in Mexico City on Saturday night, meant that I have been able to enjoy this extraordinary celebration this year. Last night I was in the Coyoacan area of the city, where tens of thousands of people, mainly in family groups, were thronging the streets and the squares. I sat in on part of a Catholic Mass in the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist and was fascinated to see a Day of the Dead installation on the church premises. The Catholics have always been better at assimilating pre-Christian traditional and rituals into their life than the dourer Protestants.

imageThe installations, which are to be found all round the city, include skulls, skeletons, dolls, flowers and food; the Dead need feeding as well, according to tradition. A high percentage of the public had made themselves up with gruesome costumes and face painting — far more inventive than what one sees in North America at Halloween. Children wave little buckets around, begging for sweets, and there were a number of street theatre groups active around Coyoacan. The actual Day of the Dead was today, 2 November, which is a public holiday; the roads that are usually clogged were easy to drive along and there was a general sense of well-being and camaraderie of the sort one finds more often at Christmas in Europe. I have always believed that death should be a reason for celebration of life and a thanksgiving for the departed rather than a cause of prolonged mourning. The Mexicans, even the poor ones, certainly know how to enjoy themselves so it has been uplifting to be among them at this special time.

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