October 22, 2013

Celebrating the Day of the Dead

As much as I love going door-to-door to get free candy, I'm even more enamored with the concepts behind the Day of the Dead. Growing up, we never celebrated this holiday (probably because it's not observed here in the States), but the more I read the more I find that I would love to develop some family traditions surrounding it.

The Day of the Dead is typically celebrated in Mexico and Latin America around the same time as Halloween, although many countries throughout the world have similar celebrations. Its whole idea is celebrating and honoring those that have passed on and really taking the fear out of death. As "scary" as the traditional Dias de los Muertos skulls may seem, the bright colors that surround the holiday are symbolic of the celebration of life and its cycle, which eventually ends in death.

As a member of the LDS church, I believe that death is truly a celebration, because it symbolizes the freedom from the trials of this life. Even though I miss my grandparents and loved ones that have left this Earth, I know that I will have the opportunity to see them again someday and I love doing Family History research to learn even more about the lives that they lived. 

I've been researching the various traditions from other cultures that are used to celebrate ancestors and those that have passed on - of those, there are definitely a few that I would love to adapt for our own family!

Creating an altar for the deceased

In our family, I think this would involve finding photographs of our ancestors, lighting candles, and displaying them somewhere in our house. Nothing too fancy, but something that could bring our attention to the lives that were lived before us. 

Have a big harvest meal and telling stories of our ancestors

I would love to have this as a tradition! In Mexican culture, the stories that are told are often funny and joyful, because they don't believe that the dead want to be thought of in a somber manner. The harvest meal actually comes from the Samhain tradition, which celebrates the end of Autumn and the harvest, but I would love to add a huge meal on October 31st or November 1st, where we could tell stories and enjoy family. 

Make pan de muerto and sugar skulls

Wouldn't it be fun to make these traditional Mexican foods for the holiday season? The pan de muerto is traditionally eaten at parties, festivals, and graveyards, although it is also offered at the altar of the deceased, to nourish them in the next life. I found a recipe for it here and just might be trying it next week. 

Go to the cemetery with flowers and candles

I have a confession - I love cemeteries. It probably stems from when my family would take Sunday walks through the nearby cemetery and I would look at the gravestones, trying to figure out when the person was alive and died. I think there's something magical about them - hopefully that's not too morbid. I'm hoping to take a family trip to the cemetery in the next few weeks, so we can clean off gravestones, place flowers by graves, and maybe light some candles, as another way to honor and remember the dead. 

I'm sure our family's celebration of "Day of the Dead" will differ a lot from the traditional celebration, but I really want to make Halloween more of a celebration than just costumes and candy. I am constantly in awe by the lives that came before mine and the benefits that I receive from my ancestors, even years after they have left this Earth. I would love to develop a time to help Josephine, and all our other kids, celebrate and remember those lives. 

How about you: do you celebrate the Day of the Dead? What do you do?


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  2. Love your post, I adore Day Of The Dead as well, you might want to check out the newest post on my blog think you will enjoy it! UniqueJunktique.com this weeks Tuesdays Top 5 featuring Day Of The Dead Art

  3. Love this, I too, am a firm believer in Day of the Dead. One day I will visit Mexico and take part in the wonderful tradition of honoring our dead. Now following you via Bloglovin'
    Visiting from Lovely Ladies Linky Party.

    Barbara @ www.allmylivesnow.com