Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
I've always loved the Mexican tradition of celebrating those who have gone before but it wasn't until we lived there that we made our own altar.
Represented are our grandparents, our pets, and our friends. We have some of their things as well; a beer for Roger, Zeus's collar, Shelley's jam recipe she sent on a postcard. There's a special dead bread you're supposed to put out as well, but I'm out of space.
The general mood of the day is more one of joy than sorrow, although sorrow is definitely in the mix. When I pass by my altar, mostly I feel connected to those who have passed, but I also still grieve the recent ones. Putting out these photos and decorations brings present for me how much we don't talk about death in our culture. It's so much more acknowledged in Mexico.
Although it falls near Halloween, and the skeleton images are similar to ones you'll see in the States, it's a very different holiday. The graves are meticulously decorated and visited. Picnics are had in the cemetery, and music plays. Fireworks are shot off to guide souls home.
This cemetery in San Miguel de Allende was so old that it didn't seem like anyone now living would have actually known anyone buried here. But all the graves are decorated - even the unmarked ones.
Another sight that impressed me in San Miguel was an altar in the town square. It was for a man who clearly enjoyed his vices, as it featured a bottle of tequila and pack of cigarettes. I was amazed teenagers hadn't absconded with the goods.
But I guess that points to a very different context for death, which was my initial point. A very wise woman taught me that when someone dies, our relationship with them doesn't end, it changes. So in the spirit of Dia de Los Muertos, I invite you to celebrate your loved ones, your ancestors, your pets, and feel sad if you feel sad, but don't back away from the sad. Move through it, until you get to feeling glad they blessed your life. Share about them today. Remember something funny or wonderful they did. And be grateful you have this moment right now.