Feliz Día de los Muertos!
Today is Day of the Dead, a two-day holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and by people of Mexican ancestry, and it focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. On this day, people go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars with the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of their departed loved ones. These celebrations are meant to be happy and reverent instead of spooky or sad because they are, essentially, a celebration of life. I must admit I’m a little jealous of my colleagues in our Mexico office because they have today and tomorrow off from work!
The items that families leave on their altars include sugar skulls (calaveras de azúcar), often with the person’s name inscribed on the top; pan de Muertos, a special bread that is made especially for the season; and cempasuchil (marigolds) which bloom at this time of year and lend a special fragrance to the celebration. I have a fond memory of taking a Spanish class in middle school where we made pan de muertos that we covered in cinnamon and sugar. Yum!
Nick is of partial Mexican (and Haitian) descent but he didn’t grow up celebrating any Mexican customs. I’ve always had a love for Hispanic culture, as I studied it for several decades and always wanted to be a part of it. I would love for us to embrace that part of Nick’s heritage, especially after we have our baby and are starting our own traditions. It’s definitely something to think about!
If you’re interested in appreciating and celebrating Día de los Muertos, here are some sensitive ways to do so:
-Visit your family’s graves in the cemetery and take some time to honor their memory/spirit
-Visit a local museum or art exhibit that is honoring the holiday
-Decorate your home with marigolds
-Try baking some pan de muertos
-Wear some appropriately-themed jewelry. For example, today I’m wearing a sugar skull necklace.
*The most critical thing to remember when celebrating another culture’s customs is the importance of understanding and respecting the significance of the symbols and actions you’re taking. Above all, consider context and be respectful*