Moving here to southern Arizona, I became aware of the Day of the Dead, but I mistakenly thought that it was tied in with Halloween so I ignored it.
Shame on me. Día de los Muertos has nothing to do with Halloween, and once I finally decided to find out what it was all about, I've learned that I'm definitely a Día de los Muertos kind of girl.
November 1 and 2: All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day
This is traditionally an Hispanic celebration with ties not only to the Catholic Church, but to an Aztec festival as well, and is meant to celebrate and honor the lives of the deceased. There's nothing whatsoever to do with fearing evil or malevolent spirits.
As with most celebrations, there are preparations to make. Graves must be cleaned and decorated with flowers, candles and the food and drink that the deceased loved while living. Special foods must be cooked and altars built. The entire family participates.
The spirits of loved ones are believed to visit their homes on Día de los Muertos to celebrate with the living and to enjoy what their families have prepared for them.
In most instances, there are two celebrations. The one on November 1 is for the souls of the children to be honored. On November 2, the souls of the adults. There is much visiting, much joy, much remembrance during this very special time of year.
The decorations, the food and the idea of remembering the dead of my family and honoring them all appeals to me much more than celebrating fear and evil. I'd much rather prepare my mother's or my grandparents' favorite foods and share stories about them than dress up in an uncomfortable costume and bribe children with chocolate so they won't vandalize my home.
I know. I'm weird. Or I grew up in the wrong part of the country. Even the art that has sprung up around Día de los Muertos appeals to me.
Showing skeletons in all sorts of poses and situations that they loved while alive isn't the least bit morbid to me. We are who we are because of our ancestors. It makes sense to remember them-- especially during happy times.
The Día de los Muertos even figures in books. Have you read Lowry's Under the Volcano? Necroville (Terminal Cafe) by Ian McDonald? Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree? How about Barbara Hambly's Days of the Dead? It appears that I'm not the only person who likes the holiday!
Now that everyone has celebrated Halloween, I think I'll celebrate Día de los Muertos. I certainly have enough family tales to remember!
"We are not here for a long time, we are here for a good time."