Monday, November 1, 2010

Dia de los Muertos

Also known as Day of the Dead. Sounds grim and gruesome, but it isn't. It's a 2 day celebration in which the Mexicans remember their deceased. Nov 1st is the day to remember the children and Nov 2nd is for the adults. Altars are prepared and decorated, sometimes quite elaborately. Pictures of the deceased and offerings of their favourite food and drink are typical. Some of their favourite activities are often included, too. Things like toys for the children or cards and tobacco for the adults. I came across a picture recently that showed a couple of rifles at an altar. I'm guessing the person liked to hunt.

I've seen photos of altars at the cemetary, on the streets and in private homes. I don't know why there is such a variety. Personal choice, is my guess.

Many families will bring a picnic to the gravesite, which has been spruced up, to enjoy a meal with their loved one. Candles are lit to help guide the spirits to their gravesite. Stories are often shared about the departed. It's a big celebration, sometimes including dances and special foods, often shared with passersby in the streets.

I couldn't find any information on how many altars a family builds. Do they make just one and put pictures of all their relatives on it? Or does each person get their own altar? And at what point do you stop building an altar for someone? When you're young enough that you never knew the person when they were living?

I don't know about you, but I think their way of celebrating those who have passed on is far more pleasant than the solemnity that is typical of our culture. And I love that they have a special day for it. We tend to remember the day a person died and think of the person on that day, but it's really just in passing. We don't do anything to celebrate that person's life. And that's a shame.

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