31 October 2011

Day of the Dead: It's good to visit with friends and family again.

¡Felicidades! Are you ready for the short and sweet Day of the Dead? Immediately following Hallow's End, this short holiday spans November 1st and 2nd and features food and fun in...graveyards! "During the Day of the Dead, the people of Azeroth gather in graveyards to celebrate and cherish the spirits of those they have lost." The in-game celebration is very obviously a representation of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos. 

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an interesting holiday, in that it is a blending of traditional indigenous celebrations and forced association with Catholic holidays. November 1st and 2nd are significant in Catholicism as All Saints' Day (aka Solemnity of All Saints, All Hallows, and Hallowmass) and All Souls' Day (aka Feast of All Souls or The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed). The original Aztec festival honored the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. When Spanish conquistadores encountered indigenous peoples' celebrations for the dead, they ended the month-long celebration and moved it to coincide with the Catholic holidays in November. Now, Mexicans celebrate Día de los Inocentes (aka Día de los Angelitos; Day of the Innocent/Little Angels) on November 1st and Día de los Muertos (aka Día de los Difuntos; Day of the Dead) on November 2nd. 

Prior to these holidays, families will prepare ofrendas, offerings of toys, food, alcohol, and other trinkets for both the graves of the deceased and their own homes. Azerothians will need to visit the graveyard nearest their race's capital city to participate. Once there, families will clean and decorate the grave, then picnic, dance, share humorous stories about the deceased, and even spend the night! Many people will wear skeleton costumes or masks, or even dress up as the dead. It is considered good luck to own something of the departed's. When dancing, some people will attach shells to their clothing, believing that the noise will attract the dead.

In the home, families will prepare food for the celebration. The still-living celebrants can snack on candied pumpkins, pan de muerto, sugar skulls, and traditional liquors. For the visiting spirits they will prepare fragrant food such as moles or tamales, in addition to the deceased's favorite dishes. Strong-smelling incense is also used, as it is believed that the incorporeal spirits will draw their sustenance from the incorporeal scent of the items displayed. That is why even when the living family eats the food prepared for the dead, it is said to have already lost its nutritional value. In addition to food and drink, families will also leave out water, pillows, and blankets, as creature comforts the spirits may need after their long journey to the realm of the living. 

Denizens of Azeroth will find Cheerful Spirits hanging around their capital's graveyards, along with a dancing Catrina and the vendor Chapman. The spirits are cheerful because according to the Aztecan belief, the afterlife is happy and souls don't want to be mourned. Cheerful Spirits provide the one quest for the holiday, the text of which alludes to their merrymaking and having eaten too much! They ask you to whip up some Bread of the Dead out of milk and flour. The real-world equivalent contains lots of egg and has many shapes and sizes. In order to see the ghostly revelers at the graveyard and turn in your offering, you will need to purchase and use an Orange Marigold. Mexican marigolds (cempasuchitl), sometimes called Flor de Muerto (Flower of the Dead), are commonly used in decorating graves as it is thought that they help attract souls. This quest rewards a temporary (CRYING FOREVER) Macabre Marionette minipet. The word choice here is interesting, as in the actual celebrations, cute or playful representations of death are not inappropriate or macabre at all. 

After you have honored the dead's request, you may want to join in the rest of the celebration! Chapman sells single marigolds and a whole bouquet, a Spirit Candle should you want to help decorate, Candy Skulls for snacking, and a Whimsical Skull Mask if you really want to get into the groove. Calaca, a colloquial word for skeleton, is used to refer to the skeleton costumes and figurines associated with the holiday. Their unique style is attributed to the artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), a political cartoonist and illustrator who often drew the unpopular cohorts of Porfirio Díaz in satirized skeletal form. His best known print is La Calavera Catrina (The Elegant Skeleton), a skeleton representation of an upper class lady. At the time, Posada's works were quickly forgotten, but following the Mexican Revolution, French artist Jean Charlot revived them. This resurgence of images forever associated Posada's cavorting calacas with Día de los Muertos.

[As a quick aside, I took Spanish throughout high school and university, and had to watch a classroom telenovela known as La Catrina. The way the main character said that phrase has always stuck with me, so I find myself hearing it over and over as I read about LA CATRRRRIIIIINAAAAA.]

To get the one achievement associated with the holiday, players must /dance with La Catrina in the graveyard. This will also give them the buff Honor the Dead, which makes them look like a skeleton. Being walking skeletons already, the Forsaken are uniquely suited to represent this holiday. However, it's interesting in that they themselves are denied what those being celebrated have: the blessed afterlife!

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