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Day Of The Dead 2012: Colorful Scenes Mark Holiday Celebrations

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DAY OF THE DEAD
A woman dressed as a traditional Mexican "Catrina" attends a parade of large alebrijes in Mexico City, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 "Catrinas" are related to the tradition of Day of the Dead, celebrated on Nov. 1, and "alebrijes" are statues of fantasy animals. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) | AP

On the heels of Halloween comes yet another eccentric holiday: El Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead, which contrary to what you may think, is a lively celebration of life rather than a solemn homage to the dearly departed.

Annually observed in Mexico and a number of other countries, the Day of the Dead reportedly originates from Aztec celebrations honoring Mictecacihuatl, queen of the Netherworld, reports the Province. Following the 16th century Spanish invasion of Mexico, the holiday merged with All Soul's Day, but nevertheless retained its indigenous rituals, adds SF Weekly.

The Day of the Dead, which starts October 31 at midnight, revolves around reunions between friends and family, who gather around to pray, visit the graves of loved ones with offerings of flowers, food and candy skulls.

Legend has it that the souls of dead family members come back to visit in the first two days of November. They are welcomed with candles, colorful altars, home-cooked food, and bright yellow flowers.

According to Sergio Quesada, professor of anthropology and curriculum coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute, the ceremony celebrates their rebirth rather than their death. “Mexicans have a love affair with death,” The Red and Black quoted Quesada as saying. “Not with dead people, but with the idea of death.”

Nowadays, the ceremony is not only celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries. In the United States, the tradition's popularity has grown in tandem with the number of Mexican immigrants in the country.

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