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The Mexican issue of Time Out Melbourne back in May celebrated the wave of Mexicana taking over this city's art, music and food scene ("El Bourne" we called it. Chuckle). Yet Australia’s taken its sweet time getting on board with celebrating Dia de los Muertos (or, for monolinguistic readers, Day of the Dead); the greatest festival in the history of mankind.
That’s finally set to change with Melbourne’s inaugural JLP Day of the Dead Festival, held throughout some of our favourite Mexican restaurants. It’s the brainchild of Senorita’s founder Ricardo Amare and ad agency creative director Velco Dojcinovski, with events at the new Acland Street Cantina and Cellar Bar, Touché Hombre, Newmarket Hotel, Chingon and more.
This nine day-long celebration of cuisine, culture, music, and costume concludes with a Mexican Masquerade at Baroq House, is sponsored by JLP The President's Tequila, and gets a double thumbs up from the Mexican Ambassador and the Mexican Embassy.
But aside from food, dancing and skeleton-themed decorations, what is Day of the Dead, exactly?
- It’s millennia old (sort of): As befits a tradition originating in countries conquered by Spain, the already-existent Dia de los Muertos celebrations were sneakily incorporated into two conveniently appropriate existing Catholic holy days, All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1 and 2). However, the origins of the celebration are far more ancient: in fact, they can be traced back to celebrations honouring the Aztec goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl.
- In Mexico, it’s divided into two distinct celebrations: Technically there are two celebrations of those that have passed: Dia de los Innocentes (or Angelitos) on November 1, honouring children, and the actual Day of the Dead honouring adults on November 2.
- People dine in cemeteries: This isn’t just a celebration of the deceased – it’s a celebration with them! Families will traipse to the graveyard to enjoy a proper meal with everyone, dead included, and sometimes build them little altars with their favourite food and drink thereon.
- That skeleton lady has a name: It’s Catarina (well, La Calavera Catrina), and she originated in a 1910 zinc print by the artist and satirist José Guadalupe Posada. - Andrew P Street, Melbourne Time Out
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