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EL MUERTO ~ ORIGINAL GOTHIC PENDANT WITH SKULL ON CATHOLIC CROSS SYMBOL OF THE DAY OF THE DEAD
The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years.
In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month.
The festivities were dedicated to the god known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina. A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (colloquially called calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas (colloquial term for "skeleton"), and foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead.
Sugar skulls are gifts that can be given to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread made in various shapes from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits, often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.
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