In true Mexican style Day of the Dead is celebrated not just over one day but over two. However, the two days do have different significance. Today, November 1 is El Dia de los Angelitos or the Day of the Little Angels. It is believed that on this day the souls of departed children return home. In fact, it is understood that they arrive at midnight on the 31st October and spend one full day with their loved ones. Therefore, families who have lost children place milk, sweets and cookies on their altars along with toys for the children to play with.
The Aztecs believed that babies went to the fourth heaven (there were thirteen heavens in Aztec mythology) where the trees trickled milk for them. They thought that these babies would have another chance at life once this current world was destroyed and a new world was born. Children were often sacrificed in honour of Tláloc the god of rain, in the belief that their tears were as pure as raindrops.
The Aztecs celebrated two days of the dead in August, when the underworld Mictlán opened and the souls could return. When the catholic Spanish arrived in Mexico, it would appear that in order to make the “heathen” natives convert to Catholicism these days were celebrated on the catholic holidays of All Souls and All Saints day.
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, The Independent UK, Afar and The New Worlder among others. Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.