Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dia de los Muertos

I've never thought much or done much about Day of the Dead (it's not real big in Maryland!) but wanted to share this excerpt from the book I'm currently reading, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (she and her family decided to spend a year eating local foods only.. very interesting book but a little preachy)

Anyway, about Day of the Dead Kingsolver writes:
"Dia de los Muertos is still an entirely happy ritual of remembering one's departed loved ones, welcoming them into the living room by means of altars covered with photographs and other treasured things that bring memory into the present. Families also visit cemeteries to dress up the graves. I've seen plots adorned not just with flowers but also seashells, coins, toys, the Blessed Virgin, cigarettes, and tequila bottles.(To get everybody back, you do what you have to do.) Then the family members set out a picnic, often directly on top of a grave, and share reminiscences about the full cast of the beloved dead, whether lured in by the flowers or the tequila, and it's the best party of the year. Food is the center of this occasion, especially aromatic dishes that are felt to nourish spiritual presence...

Anthropologists who write about this holiday always seem surprised by how pleasant the festivals are, despite the obvious connections with morbidity. Most modern lives include very few days penciled onto the calendar for talking and thinking about people we miss because they've died. Death is a gulf we rarely broach, must less celebrate joyfully. By coincidence... a different, ancient non-Christian holiday from northern Europe is also celebrated at the same time of year. That one is called Hallowe'en and reinforces an opposite tradition, characterizing death as horrifying and grotesque. Far be it from me to critique an opportunity to dress up and beg free candy, but I prefer Dia de los Muertos. It's not at all spooky. It's funny and friendly...

I'm drawn to this celebration, I'm sure, because I live in a culture that allows almost no room for dead people... But I think I understand now. When I cultivate my garden I'm spending time with my grandfather, sometimes recalling deeply buried memories of him, decades after his death.... That's ...a memory space opened before my eyes, which has no name in my language."

Do any of you celebrate Day of the Dead? What are your traditions?

1 comment:

Kara Chipoletti Jones of GriefAndCreativity dot com said...

I love love love Day of the Dead... did a huge heART-full post for it on 31st and made it a blog fest open till 11:59pm tonight. I'm going to add link to this post there, Em...great quote! The Fest is at: