Monday, November 1, 2010

Feliz Dia de los Muertos...














We don't celebrate Halloween in Mexico, although along the borders and in some of the bigger cities this American tradition is catching on. Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead ) is one of our most traditional of all of our Mexican holidays. Yet a holiday that may easily appall anyone who does not know the Mexican pre Hispanic culture.

This holiday is celebrated today much like it was over 3,000 years ago. It begins today on November 1st and goes on into the evening of November 2nd throughout Mexico.

It is also celebrated in many of the larger Mexican communities throughout the US and other Latin American countries.

Mexicans, you see have a special relationship with DEATH; we consider it is the beginning of LIFE.

Mexicans (at least most of the ones I know) do not fear death and so we tend to irreverently mock it. We will joke about it, sing about it and create art and most of all publicly honor it.

It is during the Days of the Dead holiday that death is celebrated with touching and beautiful traditional altars.

 The alters are created and stay up for several days in many homes and businesses as well as cemeteries throughout Mexico.

Images of their favorite saints like St. Jude or St. Martin or La Virgen de Guadalupe with candles and ribbons are placed on the altar.

There will usually be a votive candle for each deceased family member.

As each candle is lit the names of the departed are called out, as if to say "Welcome home, dear Grandma, your family awaits you."

The flame of the candle lights the way to guide the deceased soul home.

Family photographs and objects of value to the departed are also set out to give the dead the feeling of being home again.

It is a special time set aside to honor our deceased love ones.

Part of the tradition states that it is important for families to be in a good relationship with their dead relatives.

So amendments are made, and by gones be gone - even with that over bearing older brother you couln't stand or gossipy sister in law.

We believe that the dead bring good fortune to the living.

The dead we also believe care about some of the materials things of their former life and are comforted by their favorite possessions.

You will find sandals (huaraches), colorful shawls (rebozos), old straw hats, and even saddles on an altar.

I have been to homes where I even saw fine silver bracelets, silk shawls, high heels and once I even saw a statue of a Manolete a famous bullfighter and a single red rose.

Other alters I have seen had some neatly pressed jeans and blouse, both carefully placed on a chair below a wall mirror.

Maybe much like in life, all souls want to be dress up and look great during the fiesta.

In many part of Mexico, families spread a floral carpet on the ground leading to their home so that the spirit does not get lost along the way.

A central idea behind the creation of the offering (Ofrenda) is to share with the dead the pleasures of life.

Teswin (fermented fruit wine), beer or tequila are served as reminders of the good times on earth.

A former smoker will be treated with his/her favorite brand of cigarettes.

The (Ofrenda) is an offering or helping force and a visual expression, without judgment, of the gratitude, love and veneration the family feels for the visiting spirit of their relative.

I'll tell you more about Dia de Los Muertos tomorrow - especially about the more religious aspects of this celebration.

Make it a great dia!