Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dia de los Muertes

Today is the Dia de Los Muertes or Day of the Dead. I've always found this type of celebration to be more interesting than Halloween. It's a celebration of the connection between the spirits and the living. Interestingly enough, these types of celebrations are popular in nearly all cultures but I have to say that the Mexicans and Chinese get a medal for fascinating ways to party it up. In both cultures, people go to the graves of family members and friends and bring gifts, or ofrendas, of favorite treats and they spend the day cleaning and arranging altars with significant items that were a part of that persons life. I really enjoy the colorful and communal aspect to this day. Actually, Day of the Dead is two days of celebrating. Today is about las angelitos, or the little angels, and tomorrow is about the adult remembrances. Day of the Dead provides a spiritual pathway from the living to the Saints and to God. The sugar skulls are a tradition as are a type of marigold called zenpasuchitl that are used to decorate the graves and altars. Most of the traditions surrounding this celebration date from Pre-Columbian times.
I reminds me of the manner in which Asian families have very similar celebrations by going to the graves, cleaning and scrubbing them and decorating them with flowers and favorite foods of the person who has passed on. They also have a lantern festival that is an ancient custom. Putting lighted lanterns into the rivers and streams allows the passage of the spirits to another world. I have only seen pictures of both of these celebrations and done some extensive reading about the cultures and it just seems such a beautiful thing to do. I'm not a deeply religious person but I find, surprisingly, that I am deeply spiritual and the thought of moving on to another world is a pleasant thought that, as I become older, really comforts me.
So, no matter if you're a Celt and they put you in your canoe and fill it with evergreens and light that sucker up and float you out to sea, or you're Egyptian and somebody builds a tomb full of the things that represent who you were in life, the concept is the same. It is a celebration of a life and it pleases me to think of remembrance in whatever form it takes. Just in case something happens to me anytime soon-don't forget to put my rotary cutter and Olfa Ruler in with me! Oh! fabric...don't forget the fabric....and maybe some chocolate. I think I'll go get some just to be safe!


Gerrie said...

Thanks for the reminder to honor those who have been a part of our lives and the silly thought at the end: you eating chocolate and making quilts in the after life - perhaps in a flaming canoe!

Terry said...

I used to think this holiday was so morbid, but now I am older and have lost so many people that I loved and it takes on a new meaning. I am still not sure what I believe about an afterlife, but I find so much comfort in the thought that those who have passed are still with us and honoring them becomes a way of keeping them close. And me, I want my scissors to go with me--all of them!

Finn said...

Dee, I love this post!! I love the sugar skulls, the color and the things that occur in my head as I think about what you have said.
I've never given it much thought, but you know, I really LIKE that canoe idea. It sure looked spectacular when it was King Arthur in the canoe, or maybe I was just fascinat3d by Sean Connery?
Either way, please put me one for one canoe trip to the HereAfter. Hugs, Finn

Deb Geyer said...

I didn't know all of the info that you passed on. Thanks for sharing!

Let's see, I'll need a needle, some thread, fabric and, I'm thinking, my Crocs!

The Carolina Quilter said...

Dee, your writing style cracks me up while your entries are also thought-provoking. I am one of those who is not ready by any means for my ticket to be stamped but I constantly think of the fragility of life (motherhood tends to do that I think, especially when one of our junior high students was just killed last week just after her big sister had picked her and another friend up to head to church on a sunny afternoon and the big sister is still in ICU). But these are nice customs. And yes, someone pack up my rotary cutter and my snips!