Although, the Day of the Dead (also known as el Dia de los Muertos and Los Finados) is most prominently recognized and celebrated in Mexico, it is also very popular in many villages and towns in Belize. This is due to the fact that the tradition of celebrating the life and death of lost loved ones dates back to the ancient Maya, an indigenous culture of Belize and Central America.
However, interestingly enough, this celebration is also linked to Catholicism, the primary religion that was enforced by the Europeans when they colonized the Americas. Understanding that, it is not by coincidence that the Day of the Dead is celebrated at the beginning of November coinciding with All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
What makes this event unique?
On the Day of the Dead, Maya and Mestizo communities across Belize unanimously get together to commemorate the life and death of their ancestors. This is done at people’s homes by decorating small tables as alters and including water, flowers, fruits, candles and portraits of their deceased. Families also make sure to have delicious traditional Belizean foods such as tamales, Bollos, Caldo de Gallina local, Chirmole and Ishpasha Atole. As for favorite alcoholic drinks, rum and tequila seem to be the popular choices.
On All Souls Day, the Catholic Church holds a mass where everyone goes to pray for their loved ones who have passed away. Following the mass, a street procession takes place which leads to the local cemetery. Individuals carry with them wreaths, candles and food, which are later placed on the graves. The tombs are not only adorned but the family members pray and thank their dead relatives for being a part of their lives and wish them the best in the afterlife. Also common is the sharing of good memories and fun stories.
The Day of the Dead and I…
Apart from the Day of the Dead being an integral part of Belizean culture, there are two major reasons why I am fond of this festivity. The first is because as a child we did not celebrate Halloween and in our small town, we welcomed ANY interesting event. Second, the assortment of traditional foods done on that day could only compare to a Christmas feast. Up to this day I am grateful for having a large number of friends, this was advantageous since each home would prepare food according to what was the favorite meal of their deceased relatives – that equaled a lot of food.
Thank you dear ancestors.
How do you celebrate the life and death of your passed loved ones?