El Día de los Muertos, Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve…

It’s officially October. I cannot express how glad I am that it is October. I’ve been making Halloween-esque crafts all Fall in secret. I’ve been so excited for October holidays and I’ve had to hide it, lest I be judged by those who don’t share my excitement!

I love everything Halloween and everything close to. Ever heard of el Día de los Muertos, or “the Day of the Dead”? El Día is a primarily Mexican holiday, which honours deceased friends and family, bringing living friends and family together. In a lot of Western cultures, we see death as a morbid thing, and as an end to physical life. El Día embraces life and death, rather than fearing it [1] as many Westerners do. To the ancient Aztecs and Meso-Americans who began the traditions of El Día, life was a dream and only in death did one become truly awake. [1] It is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November, in correlation with the Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. [2] El Día is celebrated with traditions including decorating graves and making altars dedicated to the deceased, eating sugar skulls (keep an eye out for my next post!) and other treats, parades, music-making, and one of the traditions that has stuck out to me the most– hanging papel picado.

Disclaimer: This photo is not my own. If it is yours, please contact me so I can give you proper credit.

Disclaimer: This photo is not my own. If it is yours, please contact me so I can give you proper credit.

Papel picado is a paper banner with elaborate designs cut into it. Common Day of the Dead papel picado imagery includes smiling sugar skulls, dancing skeletons, drinking and/or feasting skeletons, skeletons getting married, or skeletons singing and playing instruments. [3] “The images on papel picado are always humorous and fun – never scary, sad or macabre.” [3] Like most Día de los Muertos art forms, papel picado is brief and short-lived. [3] The delicacy of the tissue paper means that the decorations won’t last long.– [3] They are meant to be enjoyed until they fall apart, or until it’s time to take them down. [3] This lack of attachment to longevity is in line with many other Day of the Dead art forms that are only temporary, such as sugar skulls which are meant to be eaten, and skeleton paintings on store windows that are washed off after the holiday is over. [3] Papel picado placed on altars to the deceased, represents wind, one of the four aspects (Earth, water, fire, and wind) important to an altar. [4] The sound of papel picado rustling in the wind indicates the deceased spirits are returning for the festivities of el Día.

So, I made these after I saw a post on Studio DIY‘s blog. [5] They have a papel picado feel, being made of a tissue paper, and they rustle in the wind when I have the door open, surely (friendly!) spirits saying hello. (;

I think it ties in nicely with the rest of my Halloween decorations. (: I made these spiderwebs, found on This Heart of Mine, guest starring Studio DIY[6] They also match my pennant banner which you can see in the background! Banners are something new I will be trying out in my Etsy shop soon. But this one is just for me, for my favourite time of year! (:

Since Josh and I have moved into our apartment, we’ve had a wreath on the door. I plan to uphold this ritual– wreath making is fun, and there are so many different kinds of wreaths! This one is a feather boa wreath with some Halloween-inspired roses and a painted sign that says “a real witch lives here.”

I also made this doorknob hanger that says “the Dix’s” on one side and “out of candy” on the other, for Halloween night when we’re done answering the door. It will unfortunately have to be kept inside the door, because I didn’t think through the fact that it would get caught in the door when we close it behind us!

I made this bat garland for our balcony, as well, inspired by the Artful Parent. [9] My bats are connected accordion-style by the wing, rather than sewn together.

Did you know Halloween is really only celebrated in the States and Canada? Other countries do celebrate Halloween, but not to the extent we do. Think about it– go into any store in October and it has a Halloween section. Even in Europe, most Halloween traditions are minimal. In Poland many people refuse to observe Halloween, because it is the day after All Saint’s Day, which is a sad holiday. [7] In Switzerland, Halloween, after first becoming popular in 1999 is on the wane. Switzerland already has a “festival overload” and even though Swiss people like to dress up for any occasion, they do prefer a traditional element. [7] “Between 1630 and 1640, the Catholic Church carried on a campaign to suppress surviving pagan traditions connected to All Saints’ Day and its eve. These feasts vanished completely. However, in the 1990s, Halloween was popularized by television programs and merchandising coming from [the] United States… As a result, Halloween has become a major festivity among Italian youth. The actual holiday, …All Souls Day, is still celebrated, with each region preparing their traditional plates and costumes.” [7] And in Romania, Halloween is celebrated around the myth of “Dracula”. The spirit of Dracula is believed to live there because the town was the site of many witch trials; these are recreated today by actors on the night of Halloween. [7] In Ireland and Scotland, though, they celebrate Samhain.

“Originating in ancient Europe as a Celtic Fire festival, Samhain is now celebrated worldwide.” [8] Other than being celebrated in Ireland and Scotland, it is celebrated by Pagans. Samhain coincides with the end of the growing season [8] and it is the third and final Pagan harvest festival. It is also celebrated as the ending of the old Pagan year and the beginning of a new year. It can be celebrated with Samhain rituals, feasts honouring the dead, and reflections on the past year and goals for the new. [8] My friends and I will definitely be greeting the spirits (perhaps cued by papel picado!), giving thanks for the old year and bidding farewell, and looking forward to the new year this week!

 

1. Day of the Dead history
2. Day of the Dead
3. Papel Picado
4. Dia de los Muertos: A User’s Guide
5. Haunted Housewarming: The DIY Breakdown on Studio DIY
6. DIY Paper Spiderwebs on This Heart of Mine, by Studio DIY
7. Halloween around the world
8. Celebrating Samhain
9. A Felt Bat Garland on The Artful Parent

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