Monday, October 30, 2006

Day of the Dead Thinking

I am intrigued by the Mexican celebration of Day of the Dead. I began to learn about this tradition while living in New Mexico, and have continued to learn of it in bits and pieces since then. For example, there is a store in town that carries miscellaneous Day of the Dead items.

Some people assume Day of the Dead is like Halloween, but it's not. Halloween focuses on being "afraid" of the dead. Ghosts and skeletons are supposed to be scary. Day of the Dead celebrates our ancestors and welcomes their spirits with a party.

Coming from the rural Midwest, with very little ethnic diversity, it takes deep curiosity and a resistance to fear to explore the Day of the Dead. At least it did for me. The fear part is that the concepts, initially, seem so strange. Decorating gravestones and having fiestas to honor the dead? In reality, it's not so different from our Memorial Day. However, I would suggest that Day of the Dead ceremonies are a lot more fun - probably more sincere. The families spend time together remembering those who have transitioned. The families remember details: favorite songs, favorite foods, words of wisdom.

I think Day of the Dead celebrations will become more common in the US, as the distribution of ethnicities is changing dramatically. I think this is a good thing, and I look forward to learning more!

Day of the Dead starts on Nov. 1, a day to remember the children that have died. Then on Nov 2, all of those gone before us are remembered. Here is a little of what I will remember about my family:

  • My Father - His words and love for words, his bravery for starting his own business, our long horse rides together, his dreams
  • My Grandma Tressie - Her devotion to family, her independence, her hands, her many skills, her rolls, "oh, shaw!"
  • My Great Grandmother Shelton - Her energy, her nickname for me (snooky), her marigolds and her noodles
  • My great grandmother Edith - Her sense of humor, that she chose to live life on her own terms, her ticklish kisses

3 comments:

Allison said...

This is a very touching post. Thank you for sharing your info and your memories.

Michel said...

Wow, I did not realize how similar it was to the Chinese Ghost Festival. Minus the carnival atmosphere, though.

Anonymous said...

excellent. and the Mexican dia de los muertos art is just so awesome.