Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

La Catrina by José Guadalupe Posada

The air is festive in my adopted land, and as much as I enjoy Halloween and it's cheesy-creepy atmosphere, it makes me very home sick (more than any other holiday, in fact).
Dia de los Muertos is approaching and I miss terribly it's aesthetic and meaning. It is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, and it is a cultural tradition that dates back to pre-hispanic times and that has been hybridized with Catholic holidays (All Souls day and All saints Day).

Día de los Muertos is less about Death than about celebrating Life. It is a day to be reminded that Life cannot be without Death, and that because of the fact that we will all die someday Life is precious and should not be wasted. Everyday matters and should be enjoyed. An acknowledgement of the ultimate dichotomy, a theme I have been focusing on for a while now and should probably write a post about sometime soon.

It is also a celebration of those we love that have died, a day to remember them and keep them close to our hearts. In Mexico it is a tradition to set up little altars with offerings to our beloved dead (Ofrendas) that include their photographs, candles, marygolds (xempazúchitl), paper banners and some of the  favorite things of the deceased (like jewelry, music, food and drinks).
Here are a couple of nice examples of Ofrendas: 

Image from here.

I particularly love this ofrenda, where the brushes used by the deceased are on display.
This image and many other nice examples found here.
Sometimes ofrendas are set up right on the graves of those who we miss. Graveyards on Dia de los Muertos become festive with people eating, playing music, sharing, remembering.

You can buy this image by visiting here.
Pan de Muerto (image from here)
Food is a crucial element of Día de los Muertos. Bakeries make a special bread decorated with "bones": tasty, moist, sugar covered goodness (oh, I could trade my kingdom for a slice of that right now); and at markets and plazas everywhere you find sugar skulls in all sizes adorned with colorful details. If you are lucky, the person selling them will have some colored sugar to write your name on the forehead of your skull. My sister and I loved getting our own and would put off eating them for the longest time, they were so pretty. Looking back, I believe those little sugar skulls were our first lesson on mortality. A sweet festive lesson.
Calavera de azúcar (buy your own here)
As you know we are new in our neighborhood and I am not sure wether there are any kids out here, but just in case they come knocking on our door on Halloween, I am off to buy some candy. 
And maybe this weekend I will venture out to San Francisco in chase of some Pan de Muerto.

Hope you are having fun!

PS. To see a Catrina slideshow visit here.

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this post!! I think it must be true that the veils between us and the spirit world are at their thinnest this time of year, because for me tonight has felt almost creepy. It definitely helped to hear you put into perspective how death is a part of life and worthy of celebration, and that now is the idea time to remember our loved ones on the other side :) Thanks for sharing! <3


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