I must have been three or four years old and what I recall is crowds of people trying to find parking as if to attend a concert. Flower vendors with carts full of bright colored flowers and people hauling boxes, bags or some type of containers full of what to me looked like toys because of the eye catching colors. What was going on? Where were they going? I felt confused and yet at ease in the company of my grandparents.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). A Mexican "holiday" in which those who have passed are remembered. It is customary to visit the graves of those dear to us who have passed and decorate their graves with candles, flowers, and other things. It is also a custom to find a space in one's home to set up some type of (for lack of a better word) ALTAR. The altar consists of photographs of those who have passed, sugar skulls with colorful decorations, artful skeletons depicting the profession of those dear being remembered, and a few of their favorites things, the most popular of them being some type of liquor.
Now my immediate family never quite practiced this "custom". Before my father's death (when I was age nine) the whole DEATH or DYING was never something I gave much thought to. Sure I had had a pet die by that age, but up to then those pets (hamsters, fish, and birds) weren't around long enough to be just but a novelty.
|My father (1979)|
Again, the celebration was made in early September and not November 2nd when the "holiday" is celebrated . It usually consisted of having a drink in my fathers honor on every anniversary, but some times the toast just grew in to a reason to drink and I had to stop that tradition. It was after the passing of my Great-uncle "Pepe" that death hit close to me again. I had lost both of my paternal grandparents within a couple of years of my father but living in a different country and not being near to attend the funeral or be around for those first months most tend to visit a grave site made me feel removed from the sorrow I felt with my father.
Anyways, soon after my Great-uncle passed other family members soon followed. The Dia de los Muertos custom has recently been something I have wanted to participate in. Perhaps it's because I am middle aged now that remembering my loved ones may be my way of hoping someday others will remember me. It has been a reason to dig up old pictures and introduce my husband to those that have meant so much to me and am sorry they never got to see me married. They would certainly approve of my husband, and I am grateful he is willing to listen to stories of who these loved ones were.
This year I didn't drag my feet. I have my little altar set up and from now until November 2nd I plan to tend to it by adding more items and taking the time to remember what these loved ones who departed thought me and how they shaped my life.