The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during their ritual that symbolized death and rebirth. Skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs believed came back to visit during this month-long ritual. Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the Aztecs viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing it, they embraced death. The Aztecs held the powerful belief that, life is a dream and only in death do you become truly awake.
It might sound a bit morose, but in Mexico, people react to death with grief as well as happiness and joy. They look at death with the same fear as any other culture, but there is a difference. They move through the fear by mocking death and learning to accept it within their lives. Death is a natural part of life and is apparent in daily existence. It’s in art and is even a part of children’s games. Death is not feared in the same way it is in other cultures. Children play “funeral” with toys that are made to represent coffins and undertakers. People look death in the face and laugh as they celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Mexico.
Día de los Muertos is a joyous occasion when the memory of loved ones and ancestors is celebrated as a representation of the continuity of life. It is believed that at this time, the souls of the departed return to visit the living. It is not a time of mourning since the path back to the living world must not be made slippery by tears.
Historian, Harley Owners Club, Kingwood, Texas Chapter
Carlos Miller, The Arizona Republic
Gerald Erichsen, About.com