Columbia Road in East London will celebrate Mexican Day of the Dead – on Saturday, 28th October 2023, from 12 pm onwards.
The Mexican… is familiar with death. [He] jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it. It is one of his favourite toys and his most steadfast love.
– Octavio Paz: ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude’
Mexican Day of the Dead is, despite its name, a joyful celebration honouring the passing of loved ones. On this day, it is believed that the spirits of the ancestors return.
Columbia Road is famous for its flower market, and flowers are an intrinsic part of this annual celebration. Flowers such as marigolds decorate the outside of houses and help the dead find their way back to the land of the living and represent the transience of life.
In collaboration with local florists, Columbia Road shops will be decorated with flowers, Shopkeepers will be dressed in suitable attire – with expect face painting, artists creating shrines and ghostly figures from the past.
The festival is based upon the Pre-Columbian cycle of life and death, while the Christian Festival of All Hallows’ Eve is still celebrated in many parts of Europe. It was the syncretism of two distinct belief systems, Christianity and Pre-Columbian religions, five hundred years ago that led to this unique celebration. The Pre-Columbian Festival is over 3000 years old.
All Hallows’ Eve was also celebrated in Britain in the 8th Century. Its origins were in the Celtic festival Sainheim. This festival marked the end of the harvest season in Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. Cattle were brought down from the summer grazing fields, and the livestock was slaughtered for Winter. Bonfires were lit, and these fires were considered to be cleansing. The festival took place at Liminal Time, as at this time of year, it was believed that the boundary between our world and the other world was more porous, allowing the ancestors to move easily between the two. Feasts were held, and the souls of kin were beckoned to attend. A place at the table was set, and favorite food was served. Costumes were worn and were a way of imitating and disguising those that wore them who was often heard to recite poetry and verse.
Expect a procession, a beauty parlor and a mariachi band, and the colour walk people on Saturday, 29th October 2022.
Many cultures and countries celebrate and honor their departed ancestors. In China, the Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated, where for a whole month, burnt food is left for the ancestors – while in India, they celebrate seven generations with a bath in sacred water and then a feast. In Cambodia, it is one of the most important festivals of the year: people pray and make offerings, and in the mornings and afternoons, buffalo races are held.
An exhibit featuring The Day of the Dead festival, as seen in the opening sequence of the James Bond film ‘Spectre’, was extremely popular in 2009 and 2015 at the British Museum. This time, holding the festival on a street as opposed to inside a Museum will allow for a more inclusive celebration of this popular festival. It is a celebration and culture with a distinct appeal to the imagination.
Tube: Bethnal Green (Central) or Old Street (Northern)
Bus: 8, 26, 55 and many others (please see our map)
Train: Cambridge Heath Road (National Express/National Rail) or Old Street (First
EAST LONDON OVERGROUND! Hoxton & Shoreditch High St.
Other transport information can be found at http://journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk