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Day of the Dead and Mexican Pottery

El Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is just around the corner (it’s November 1st and 2nd, corresponding with the Catholic All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days). While Day of the Dead traditions originated in the Central and South Aztec Regions of Mexico it is now celebrated in cultures around the world. Decorated Grave in San MiguelThe holiday is a time when people celebrate and pray for friends and family members who have passed away, aiming to help support their spiritual journey in the afterlife.

On the first day of the holiday, people visit their relatives’ graves, decorating them with flowers and candles. It’s a sort of picnic in the cemetery, with friends and family sharing stories about their loved ones buried there. It’s a celebration of the dead, as well as a celebration of the community those loved ones helped to create.

These graveside picnics usually feature food that was enjoyed by the loved ones being celebrated. Popular Day of the Dead cuisine includes tamales and pan de muerto, a special bread. Bakers hide a toy skeleton inside (usually plastic) and it’s good luck if you bite into it. Sweets are another important Day of the Dead tradition, with cookies, chocolate and sugar skulls. By biting into the skull shapes, people symbolically “take a bite of death” and rid themselves of the fear of death.

Right: A decorated grave in San Miguel de Allende
http://davidlansing.com/a-party-at-the-cemetery/

Another important aspect of the Day of the Dead are the intricate altars constructed and dedicated to deceased relatives. These are often decorated with yellow and orange marigolds and/or chrysanthemums (yellow is the Aztec color for autumn as it’s the season when nature begins to die). There are both home and public altars, where people leave offerings of their relatives’ favorite foods, photographs, and religious amulets. The altars show the cycle of life and death as part of the human experience. Day of the Dead celebrations also can include parades, music, or dancing; but the main idea is to celebrate life and death together.

Day of the Dead Altar in Oaxaca, Mexico
Above: A Colorful Day of the Dead Altar in Oaxaca, Mexico
http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/special/articles/oaxaca-mexico-day-of-the-dead.shtml

One of the most popular Day of the Dead personalities is Catrina, the skeleton figure of an upper class female in colorful dress. Catrina gained her iconic status soon after the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s and remains a popular subject in paintings and sculptures to this day. Her male counterpart is called Catrin. He often shows up playing in a Mariachi Band or alongside Catrina.

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Serving Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
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Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Serving Plate with Skeleton Couple’ by Gorky Gonzalez
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Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Skeleton Serving Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
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On my last buying trip to Mexico I picked out a handful of Gorky Gonzalez pottery with beautifully-painted Catrina and Catrin images. While some people who are unfamiliar with the joyous-element of Day of the Dead might think this holiday or its skeleton decorations are creepy, many of us find them to be fun, colorful, and full of authentic Mexican charm. The Day of the Dead plates by Gorky Gonzalez are not meant to be used and enjoyed solely during the holiday. Instead, they offer a relaxed, whimsical look at traditional Mexican culture that should be celebrated year-round. I love this eccentric Mexican pottery and I hope you do to!

What are your thoughts on this colorful holiday and the traditions that go along with it? Do you know of other Mexican ceramics that celebrates the Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Square Platter’ by Gorky Gonzalez
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Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Serving Plate with Catrina’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Large Serving Plate with Skeleton Couple’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>