Maya Day of the Dead – Dia de los Muertos


Maya Dia de los MuertosAccording to Catholic tradition, November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is the Day of the Dead. After the conquest and to protect their spirituality and customs, the Maya world adopted these dates to celebrate the dead, who were originally celebrated on the day 13 Kame.

On November 1, taking advantage of the Catholic tradition of celebrating All Saints Day, Maya people from the different communities celebrated both the ruling divinity of their area and other divinities to which they felt connected.
On November 2 the celebration of 13 Kame was adapted to the Catholic celebration of the Day of the Dead. This was a day to remember the ancestors that had transcended, a day in which there was a communication between the dead and the living. To prepare for this occasion the graves were adorned and painted in bright colors to connect with the happiness and joy of this celebration, of the families sharing with their deceased.

Nowadays, in Guatemala, the celebration of the divinities and the dead has merged, and the connection to the ancestors is celebrated on both days, especially on November 1.
During these days families go to the cemeteries to render homage to their ancestors, they decorate the graves with native fruits, pine leaves, flowers and candles, they play the marimba and bring food for the dead and for themselves to share a meal with them.  In some communities they still have the tradition of celebrating Sacred Fire Ceremonies to invoke the spirit of their family and the Maya divinities. Another tradition is creating and flying colorful kites in the cemeteries. This activity has a profound spiritual meaning for the indigenous Maya, as it stages the link that eternally endures between the living and the dead. In this way, the brightly-colored, giant kites take to the sky in search of ancestral spirits to honor them and to let them know that they have not been forgotten.

This is also the day in which the elders tell the family the story of their ancestors.

Denise Barrios

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