Day of the Dead
Crystal is our son, Ab’s, wife of 13 years. When she joined our family, we were excited to learn her family’s traditions. She is of Mexican and Cuban descent, and her family celebrations were very different from our German heritage.
In her culture, Familia is most important! Over friends or work or anything else, family is #1. Family gatherings are many and everyone comes. We are grateful to have been warmly welcomed into this large, extended family and so love being a part of it.
One tradition that I just did not understand, though, is as el Día de los Muertos, in English, the Day of the Dead. Below is a picture of the ofrenda (altar) I saw as I entered their new home in Argyle, Texas last week.
Photos of Crystal’s deceased relatives are mixed with the Día de los Muertos skulls, known as the Catrina skull, one of the most prominent Day of the Dead symbols. My family’s deceased relatives are included, which was touching. My mom and dad on their wedding day are in the center above. My husband, Bill’s parents are on the left in the front.
November the 1st is known as All Saints Day, in Spanish el Día de Todos los Santos, dedicated to dead children. November 2nd is devoted to dead adults, called el Día de los Fieles Difuntos, in English Faithful Deads Day. According to tradition, the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31st and the spirits of children can rejoin their families for 24 hours. The spirits of adults can do the same on November 2nd.
Crystal said they will add the favorite things of deceased relatives to the ofrenda on those days, including a beer for Ab’s grandfathers and a candy bar for her Uncle Rene. There will be candles added to light the way for the deceased, so when they come to visit they will feel welcomed.
In Mexican culture, when no one remembers you, thinks of you, says your name, that is the real day you die.
So, Crystal, Ab and family will tell stories to their children of each of the people on the ofrenda, to keep their memory alive and to pass down their special qualities – who they were and what they stood for. They will eat posole, a special soup made with hominy and chicken.
And, of course, it’s another reason for the Familia to gather and celebrate!
Día de los Muertos is more about healing than it is about feeling bad. Celebrating Day of the Dead means facing the fact that death is real and that although our loved ones are no longer with us, we can remember them and are happy that their spirits have returned to be with us during the holiday.
I love this idea of remembrance and keeping our loved ones alive. As we grieve, we sometimes prefer to not speak of the deceased, as it is so hard to do. In the German culture, it’s unspoken – we rarely talk about someone who has died. I like Crystal’s family tradition so much better!
As November 1st and 2nd come this year, I am going to think of every one of my deceased relatives and talk about them as the important part of my past that they are. Please join me in the celebration!!
If you or someone you love is grieving and struggling with the journey, help is available. Heartlinks Grief Center provides grief support to all ages, regardless of ability to pay. If you are grieving or know someone who could use assistance on their grief journey, please contact Heartlinks Grief Center at 618-277-1800 or email email@example.com.
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