Whatever the name, it is coming...the city has signs of it all over and you can feel it in the air. The origins of this time of year are complicated but very interesting. I imagine that my Mexican indigenous ancestors celebrated in the ways of old before the Spaniards came and tried to convert the pagans into Christians. For the most part, they did their job but many Mexicans in many parts of Mexico still hold on the the old ways. I still have relatives in Guadalajara that may create an alter with sugar skulls, bread, salt and wine for the dead that visit on the night of October 31st.
In our home we have created stripped down versions of the elaborate alters that they create in Mexico but we always include the basics; photos of the dead, food and libations for those that visit to taste and enjoy. I think it is good for the children to see that death is not something to fear but the ancestors, instead of fearing death, embraced it. They believed that life was a dream and that only in dying could you truly be awake.
The Aztecs, celebrated a month long summer festival that was overseen by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1 in 835. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Catholic Church celebrates All Souls Day.
From the other side of the family...
Celts also believed that on this eve the souls of the dead, which may have included ghosts, goblins, and witches, returned to the earth. In order to scare away these evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.