Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What I have learned from Los Días de los Muertos

Today is the middle day of the days celebrated to honor the dead in Mexico. It is part of the trio of days on the catholic calendar, All Hollows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls day. In Mexico these days are part of something else, with Aztecan traditions mingled in. It is a day to remember family and friends who have died, to honor their lives and to welcome them home to visit. The holiday is celebrated with many regional variations. marigolds both paper and real are used in decorations, special foods are put out as ofienda a meal made to welcome the relives as if there were alive, since the dead can not eat they are to enjoy the smells and then the family will eat it. Graves are cleaned, stories are told and retold, loves ones remembered. Skeletons and sugar skulls are common decorations but they are not macabre, rather a reminder that under it all we are skeletons too and we and the dead have that in common and that like us their skeletons will one day be reclothed in flesh when they are made alive again. 

We read the book Day of the Dead: A Latino Celebration of Family and Life by Carol Gnojewski

colored sugar skull drawing.

and had a sugar skull themed lunch

and made paper marigolds (tutorial here)

But for me, it gave me a lot to think about. We tend to look at death a scary, creepy, uncomfortable. Both death itself and the grief of those who have lost someone are uncomfortable and not discussed. When someone dies they are not really part of our lives or our families anymore just some memories bound up in pictures we don't really talk about. and I think that is wrong. I think that my children should know about those family members they did not get to meet and that remembering those not present keeps them near your heart and that grief and joy can be mingled. Perhaps by pushing away the grief we are also losing the joy.

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