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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about -- Dia de los Muertos (MWER-tohs), the Day of the Dead.


CURWOOD: This time of year, Halloween gets most of the attention in the United States. But in Latino communities throughout the Americas, another hallowed day falls around this time: El Dio de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. The holiday is festive, but with a serious undertone. On November second, corresponding to All Souls Day of the Catholic Church, spirits are believed to return to their living families for a day of celebration and remembrance. To aid the spirit's journey home, families build ofrendas or altars to their deceased loved ones, and cover them with photos, candies, candles, and flowers. One flower in particular is used, the yellow marigold, which the Aztecs called the flower of the dead. The marigold's brilliant color and strong smell are believed to attract the spirits to their homes. Families line the paths from the streets to doorways with marigold petals to guide the spirits on the last leg of the journey. For the Aztecs, flowers were symbolic of the ephemeral life of humans. They also believed that spirits of the dead return to visit the living in the form of monarch butterflies. They migrate to Mexico each autumn seeking warmth and protection in the oyomel fir trees. And for this week, that's the Living On Earth Almanac.



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