Day of the Dead is a popular celebration in Mexico and the U.S, but is celebrated in many cultures all over the world. This special holiday celebrates the lives of people who have died. It is a time of happiness and celebration as it is believed that the souls of the dead come back to visit their loved ones. Before the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration took place at the beginning of the summer season. It was later moved to October 31st, November 1st and November 2nd to coincide with All Saint’s Eve and All Saint’s Day celebrated by Roman Catholics. This is a time to rejoice and spend some time with those who are with us in spirit. The Day of the Dead Celebrations, include activities for each day. On All Hallows’ eve (October 31st) an Altar is made to welcome the Spirits. It is said that on this day the soul of children can come back to visit. On All Saints‘ day (November 1st) Adult Spirits come back to pay a visit. And, to close off festivities, on November 2nd (All Souls’ day) Families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves of their loved ones. The three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.
Here are some traditional and fun ways you can celebrate the Day of the Dead with your family:
- Build an Altar with photos, food, and items your loved ones enjoyed.
- Decorate it with flowers, candles, and bright colors.
- Spend some time at the altar by sharing stories about your loved one. Or, write a funny poem that includes some of your loved one’s traits and personalities. You can also include a Cross or Virgin Mary statue to the decorations of your altar.
- Visit your loved ones grave site and spruce it up! Leave some Calendula (Marigold) flowers as well as any other token of love you may want to leave for them. It is important to remember that our loved ones are not hanging out at their grave site waiting for us to visit. They are with us, and we bring them with us when we go to visit.
- Our loved ones like to be pretty involved in our daily lives. So, for the Day of the Dead, spend the day talking to them and hanging out with them as if there were still physically here. I assure you that they will spend the day with you. From your morning coffee to your commute home from work, talk, laugh, share your favorite memories and learn to connect with them on a spiritual level.
- Cooking and baking is a big part of Day of the Dead Celebrations. Cook a loaf of Pan de Muertos, also known as Mexican Bread of the Dead, and share some with your family as you share stories of your loved ones. Here is a traditional Pan de Muertos recipe:http://allrecipes.com/recipe/7224/pan-de-muertos-mexicanbread-of-the-dead/ For those of you who don’t eat or drink dairy, here is a good vegan Pan de Muertos recipe: http://mjr.earthbalancenatural.com/vegan-pan-de-muertos/
- Spend the day honoring your loved ones by doing things they enjoyed doing. In some traditional celebrations, families will often leave out a pillow and a blanket for their loved ones to rest in their home.
- There is also what looks to be a really cute movie called “coco” coming out in Nov 2017 that explores this very topic, check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlnPHQ3TLX8. There is also a movie called the “Book of Life” that is also great to watch this time of year, and also explores this tradition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBw5YScs8iQ.
“Up in Illinois, we’ve forgotten what it’s all about. I mean the dead, up in our town, tonight, heck, they’re forgotten. Nobody goes to sit and talk to them. Boy, that’s lonely. That’s really sad. But here– why, shucks. It’s both happy and sad. It’s all firecrackers and skeleton toys down here in the plaza and up in that graveyard now are all the Mexican dead folks with the families visiting and flowers and candles and singing and candy. I mean it’s almost like Thanksgiving, huh? And everyone set down to dinner, but only half the people able to eat, but that’s no mind, they’re THERE. It’s like holding hands at a séance with your friends, but some of the friends gone.”
― Ray Bradbury
Remember that, above all, the Day of the Dead celebration is just that, a Celebration! A time to remember our time with the departed, and be grateful that we can still connect with them on some level. No matter how you choose to celebrate or if you choose to participate in these three special days, know that your loved ones are never far away. You have access to them in spirit every day. But, if you want to spend a few days celebrating them, know that they would also never miss a party in their honor.
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