Monday, November 4, 2013

Day of the Dead

Graves are decorated the celebrate Day of the Dead

As an American, the Day of the Dead seemed like the strangest of events.  But, having experienced one, I think this is another tradition that we could learn from. In Mexico, November 2 of each year is the day set aside to commune with loved ones who have passed on.  With roots going back 2,500 - 3,000 years, the modern celebration begins on November 1, celebrating deceased infants and children. The passing of adults is honored the following day.

On this day, the cemetery comes alive.  It is packed with people - young and old - carrying flowers, banners and candles. Alters are built displaying photos of those honored and adorned with favorites - food, beer, milk and cookies. For one man - paint brushes, a sample of his art work and gifts of his favorite foods were arranged around a large photo of him. There are crosses made of marigolds, thought to attract the souls of the dead.  In a tree over a grave, someone had hung a music CD, a broom and some chocolates. Bands roam the area, playing at the graves.
Young and old alike gather at the cemetery

There are hundreds of people.  Some are cooking and feeding their families in the cramped space by Grandma's grave.  Others sit quietly.  A couple of men string banners of flowers from a grave to the edge of the site.

Everyone comes to honor loved ones
I don't believe my loved ones rest in a grave so I rarely visit there.  But even so, how nice would it be to come spend a day with everyone else in town, celebrating the lives of the people you loved the most?  I pondered what I'd bring to share with my parents.  Cookies, donuts, yogurt, Arby's sandwiches.  A ham radio for my father, some sun screen and perhaps a toy airplane.  For my mom, a book, a basketball jersey from Kansas University, some red lipstick and anything that says "Oswego, KS".  We'd sit around and play Big Band music and tell funny stories about our lives with them. 

As night comes on around the cemetery in Ajijic, people begin to congregate.  Most are dressed up - adorned in all black, though a couple are in wedding dresses.   Their faces are painted like skeletons.  After dark, they parade a mile or so down the dark cobblestone street in front of my apartment towards another celebration in the community square.

I'm becoming a big fan of the Day of the Dead.  Next year - I'm celebrating!


  1. Wow so glad to catch up with this new adventure of you two...the border crossing sounds wild and scary ekkkkkk....the two celebrations sound so fun to experience. I agree they have it correct ...Hope to catch up with you via FB or e-mail....Your Crazy Friend siltting a top this Ozark Mt.....

  2. Party, party, party! Sounds like the life - and I do love the celebrating the departed - rather than just plastic flowers. Glad you're livin' it up!