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Dia de Todos los Santos

Not a sad event, but a joyous reaffirmation of life

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November 1 is celebrated throughout the Catholic world as Día de Todos Santos, or All Saints Day, to honor all the saints, known and unknown, of the Catholic faithful. Every day of the year has its own saint or saints, but there are more saints than calendar days, and this one major holy day honors them all, including those who had died in a state of grace but had not been canonized. And, to keep things fair, November 2 is celebrated as the Day of All Souls.

Día de Todos Santosis also known as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Like many other Catholic celebrations, in the New World it was grafted onto existing indigenous festivities to meld the "new" Catholicism with the "old" pagan beliefs.

In countries where the Europeans eventually reduced the indigenous populations, by one means or another, the celebrations gradually lost their native meaning and became more of a traditional Catholic event.

In Latin American countries where the indigenous culture is still strong, such as in Guatemala and Mexico in Central America, and in Bolivia in South America, Día de Todos Santosis an important meld of many influences.

In Central America, the dead are honored by visits to the their gravesites, often with food, flowers and all family members. In Bolivia, the dead are expected to return to their homes and villages.

The Andean emphasis is agricultural, since November 1 is in spring south of the Equator. It is the time of returning rains and the reflowering of the earth. The souls of the dead also return to reaffirm life.

During this time, the doors are opened to guests, who enter with clean hands and share in the traditional dishes, particularly the favorites of the deceased. Tables are bedecked with bread figurines called t’antawawas, sugarcane, chicha, candies and decorated pastries.

At the cemeteries, the souls are greeted with more food, music, and prayers. Rather than a sad occasion, the Día de Todos Santosis a joyous event.

In Peru, November 1 is celebrated nationally, but in Cuzco its known as Día de todos los Santos Vivos, or Day of the Living Saints and celebrated with food, particularly the famed suckling pig and tamales. November 2 is considered the Día de los Santos Difuntosor Day of the Deceased Saints and is honored with visits to cemeteries.

Wherever you are in Latin America on the first and second of November, enjoy the local holidays!

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