The Day of the Dead or “el Día de los Muertos,” is a widely known Mexican celebration. Its variations across different cultures offer intriguing insights into the diversity of human traditions.
In Argentina, the celebration takes on a distinct form known as “El Día de las Almas.” a deeply rooted commemoration that offers a unique perspective on honoring the departed.
In this blog post, we will explore the customs and practices of “El Día de las Almas” that set it apart from other Day of the Dead observances.
1. November 2nd: A Day of Spiritual Visits:
On November 2nd, el Día de los Fieles Difuntos, it is believed that the souls of the deceased return to the earthly dwellings they once inhabited.
This spiritual return prompts people to prepare for their arrival in the best possible manner. A key aspect of this preparation involves offering food to the visiting souls and fervently praying for their well-being.
2. Offering Figurative Bread on November 1st:
The celebrations of “El Día de las Almas” begin on November 1st, a day known as “Día de Todos los Santos” (All Saints’ Day). On this day, households across Argentina engage in the baking of figurines made from dough, called “ofrendas” or offerings.
These figurines are molded into shapes like angels, ladders (symbolizing the soul’s descent to partake in the feast and ascent to heaven afterward), doves, hearts, and crosses. Additionally, they can be crafted to represent things the departed loved in life, such as a dog or even a guitar.
3. Ritual Intensity for Recent Departures:
For families who have experienced recent losses (referred to as “alma nueva” or new souls), the rituals surrounding “El Día de las Almas’ ‘ intensify. The importance and quantity of offerings grow significantly. In such cases, families and neighbors may collectively bake as much as 100 kg of bread, demonstrating the profound connection between the living and the departed.
4. The Sacred Altar Arrangement:
The centerpiece of “El Día de las Almas” is the altar, an arrangement adorned with various symbolic elements.
These elements can vary based on the region and family but often include blessed water, a cross, flowers, paper crowns, and the foods and beverages that the departed enjoyed during their lifetime.
5. The Act of Nourishing Souls:
One of the most heartwarming aspects of this celebration is the act of nourishing the visiting souls. Families place the offerings on the altar, serving as a way to “treat” the souls to the foods they once savored in life.
This gesture embodies a sense of continuity and connection between the living and the departed, transcending the boundaries between worlds.
In conclusion, “El Día de las Almas” offers a remarkable perspective on the commemoration of the departed, reflecting the fusion of cultural beliefs and practices in Argentina.
The combination of culinary expressions, figurative bread offerings, and the heartfelt arrangement of altars underscores the profound connection between the living and the deceased.
This unique tradition beautifully encapsulates the essence of remembrance, respect, and the enduring bonds that unite us with our ancestors.