I never understood the fixation on skeletons, finding it eerie and a bit uncomfortable, not grasping the meaning behind The Day of the Dead, or in Spanish Dia de Muertos,…until I saw the movie “Coco”.
It is delightful and an insightful explanation of the importance of this national holiday celebrated in Mexico over 2 days, November 1-2 every year. It is a fun but reverent remembrance of those loved ones who have passed from this life into another realm.
(For a more in-depth explanation of The Day of the Dead, check out this website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead.)
Street vendors paint skeleton art on the faces of adults and children. Revelers roam the streets, and honor the memories of parents, little ones, aunts, uncles, friends, pets, grandparents, with a personal shrine, called ofrendas in Spanish. Pictures, objects owned by or represent the deceased, highlighted with marigolds and food are displayed in every home. It is an amazing reminder that these people and pets lived and are remembered.
Obviously I am not an expert on this subject, but I have come to understand and embrace this custom practiced throughout Mexico. It appears to me the first day is filled with family fun, and the second is focused on a solemn trek to the cemetery to pay respect to their ancestors. I’m going to one of the oldest cemeteries in San Miguel tomorrow, and will share pictures of the decorated resting places of former residents of this city.
Last year, thanks to a friend who suggested I set up my own shrine, my altar was sparse and simple. This year it has grown a bit, but I left many items in Texas that will be added in future years: pictures, mementos, and things that will bring to my mind the departed. Maybe it will be a bottle of Dr. Pepper, my Grandfather’s favorite soda, or a picture of my Grandmother in her 3-wheel golf cart. Even the dog collar of my doglet that died in 2017, can be added.
The list is endless once you begin thinking about each person, and what they meant to you.
I recommend you join the celebration of souls who have gone before you, watch the movie, and start your own ofrenda.
It’s a wonderful way to reunite with your ancestors.