Tradition and Celebration of November 1st and 2nd

Within the ancestral traditions of the Guatemalan people, throughout this great landscape, El Día de Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day), is celebrated on the first of November each year. This is a religious festival and has been an important day from colonial days because on this date all those Saints who do not have a special day on the calendar get a celebration – and people get a holiday.

But on November 2nd –every year – there is a pre-Hispanic celebration for the indigenous universe in America: El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). This day is important for all those people whose loved ones have died, and to be in contact with them and to remember them, they visit their tombs.

 

The most emblematic buildings within the cemeteries are galleries (colloquially called niches), as well as mausoleums (popularly recognized as the set of niches in a private construction); this last term is mistaken for the formal definition, because the name mausoleum refers to a construction where only a buried person exists.

These buildings are adorned with flowers, this happens because they not only animate the site, but also because it attracts the soul of the deceased, filling them with pleasant smells; among the most notable of these flowers is the Flor de Muerto (Flower of the Dead), whose yellow color -as well as the coincidence that its flowering is in the dates of October and November- gives the opportunity to beautify the tomb that has remained solitary the rest of the year. And as all the senses must be involved in this important date, a special meal is made, only for this particular day.

Another characteristic -in urban centers like La Antigua- is that the tradition has continued that all cemeteries have white tombs, as they are in Europe; so the relatives take advantage of this celebration to paint the various monuments and maintain the idea of purity, as well as the intention to imitate the marble. In the colonial past, the dead were buried in the Holy Fields; which were in the back of some parishes or within them; not just any person could be buried in these places, but with the arrival of liberal ideas in 1871, this changed and designated lands on the outskirts of the city, so that decaying bodies would not affect urban health; for this reason we find the San Lázaro Cemetery in a perimeter of the colonial city.

 

Written by: Erick Reyes Andrade

Translated by: Melissa Schroden

 

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