Monday, November 12, 2007

Dia de los Muertos / Day of the Dead

This was the first year our family celebrated Dia de los Muertos (DDLM) in the states. We as kids never celebrated DDLM sure my Mom and Aunts would put out fruit and bread out on the kitchen table and light a candle but there was never a "celebration". This year I decided that needed to change. Truth be told it wasn't just this year, as I get older and watch our nieces and nephews grow up I think about them growing up not knowing our Mexican culture and traditions and that saddens me very much.

So this year my sister Lucy and I got together and arranged for a pot luck style dinner and to make an altar/shrine just like it's done in Mexico. Lucky for us our Mom and our Aunts were just as excited as us. They were however very skeptical. How were we (Lucy & I) supposed to pull off Dia de los Muertos if we had never celebrated it or build an altar/shrine? My Mom as a matter of fact said, and I quote, "What do you know about sugar skull making?"

Well everyone was blown away. Not only did the sugar skulls come out good but the altar/shrine kicked butt! Which is great because I seriously was afraid of it looking like a two bit operation. Everyone did an awesome job. Lucy was the Queen being able to find Marigolds & decorations. My Mom went above and beyond by making a kick butt Pozole and then a roasted acorn squash as an offering. My Tia Nelva not to be outdone made Tinga and my Aunt Celeste provided all the garnishes for the pozole. Ryan made tri-tip & my brother in law Cesar made his famous BBQ'd ribs. And everyone brought pictures it was just too awesome for words.

Our altar/shrine consisted of "the smells" which are key, they are said to lead the deceased to the altar, and they are amazing. The strong scent of the Marigolds combined with the smell of the sugar skulls that smell like freshly iced cake and the smell of Pan de Muertos / Bread of the dead with the heavy scent of toated sesame seeds is incredible. We also had pictures of my Abuelita (Grandma) Irene, Cesar's Dad who recently passed and Ryan's beloved Pop pop.

There were offerings or things that the deceased liked and enjoyed during their time on earth. For my Abuelita we had Rompope (Mexican eggnog), cigarettes (because she took joy in this rare treat), Vaporub (because according to her it cured everything. You had a headache put some Vaporub on it, your stomach hurts put some Vaporub on it. I kid you not one time my uncle Poncho had Vaporub smeared all over his head, he was a believer too), Coca Cola (because she said it helped her digestion). For Pop pop we put out St. Patrick's Day beads, a deck of card (because he loved to play card), a bottle of wine and his sugar skull was decorated with his "signature" $2 bills.

For all of our deceased we put out glasses of water because they are thirsty after their long voyage and we also played some festive cumbias (Mexican dance music). I also included the memorial prayer card that was handed out at my sister in law's gradmother's funeral. I just had to, her funeral took place in March and the Thursday before our dinner I was cleaning out my purse and there it was. I felt it wasn't coincidence and therefore I placed the card on the altar next to Pop pop's sugar skull.

All and all it was a great night we all reminisced about our loved ones and it really felt like they were there and they were happy being amond us as we remembered them fondly and missed them so much. I encourage everyone to celebrate Dia de los Muertos in their own special way. It is a beautiful Holiday that should be celebrated more. If you ever do you'll realize that there was a good reason why the Aztecs fought the Spaniards Priest to keep it.

Again, due to my technical incompetence the slide show of our altar is in the post above.

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