Top 5 things to do in London (& the UK) to celebrate the Day of the Dead

 

By Viridiana Marin

 

November is coming and with it one of the most beautiful Mexican traditions «el a de los muertos» or Day of the dead. But how did this tradition become so popular around the world and how can you celebrate it here in London? 

The Day of the dead is a combination ​​of elements of the pre-Hispanic culture and the catholic religion that co-existed in Mexico during the Spanish colonization. This fusion of cultures created the tradition that Mexicans celebrate every year since then, on November 1st and 2nd. 3rd 4th

What the day of the dead really means?

The day of the dead is known in Spanish as «el día de los muertos»: it is a Mexican tradition that conmemorates the dead every year on the 1st and 2nd of November. We mexicans belive that the souls of dead people yearly return home to visit us, thus we welcome them back celebrating in cemeteries and on the streets with music and traditional Mexican food.

We are fearful and respectful of death and all the celebration and laughter we put up yearly is our way to exorcise it.

If you’re curious about this celebration and want to join us on this special day here you have the top 5 things to do in London on the day of the dead: 

1. Set up an altar (la ofrenda) and enter the UK Altar competition!

The ‘ofrenda’ is a fundamental element of the Day of the Dead. Is believed that the souls of the dead come to visit us and this altar is the place where can celebrate all together. It usually develops around the pictures or memories of the people that are no longer with us, and it is decorated with common symbolic elements such as flowers (like the yellow ‘flor de cempasuchil’), ‘calaveras’  (skulls made of sugar), «pan de muerto» (the typical sweet Mexican bread) and candles. It is set during the last days of October and we remove it on November 3rd. Plus make the most of it , enter our comp and be in a chance of winning amazing prizes.

2. Bake ‘pan de muerto’ (the bread of the dead)

The origin of the bread of the dead is pre-Hispanic, inspired by the sacrifice of maiden´s hearts of the Aztecs to the gods. For this reason the pan de muerto is a wheat bread that reminds of a heart shape, covered in sugar; the bread represents the body, with the skull and bones laid on top, in the shape of a small ball and a four long pieces. October is when you can usually eat this sweet bread and you could try to follow a recipe of buy authentic pan de muerto in London & the UK. Handmade or bought its delicious and you can make your ‘muertitos’ happy if they find it on the ofrenda.

3. Dress up as «Catrina»

The ‘Catrina’ is one of the most important icons of the Day of the Dead. The original version was created by Jose Guadalupe Posadas in 1873 with the intention of representing people with indigenous blood but who felt European. At the beginning the character of the Catrina did not wear clothes, only a hat, however, years later, the painter Diego Rivera portrayed her with the clothes in which she’s famous today.

La Catrina is the preferred costume for Mexicans and foreigners to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

4. Attend the Day of the Dead Festival at the British Library, Story Garden and Ossulston Street in London on 30 October.

The Traditional Mexican market of the Day of the Dead in London it’s a party that brings together Mexican street food, arts, crafts, clothing, Mexican entertainment, community ofrendas,  short films and much more. This year the celebration will take place at the Brithish Library on October 30th, from 11am to 8pm, where you can find all that you need to decorate your ‘ofrenda’, buy Mexican products and join us in this very special celebration… Full info here.

5. Watch ‘Coco’ the film!

This tradition became more popular also thanks to “Coco”, a Pixar movie from 2017, inspired and set on the Day of the Dead. It tells the story of Miguel, and his teenage act of rebellion that transports him to a luminous world beyond life, full of living skeletons, alebrijes and family secrets. It became one of the highest-grossing Pixar movies attracting a wider audience to this festivity. Watch it on you favourite platform and try to not cry! 

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