Friday, November 2, 2012

Dia de los muertos

Since my husband is Mexican, we want to teach our children his heritage as well as ours. Part of that is Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. This is our "altar" for this year. Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd. It's a time to remember deceased loved ones and honor them. Day of the Dead is a festive occasion, a time to celebrate, much like a family reunion. It is a time to be happy, not sad, since ancient aztec culture says that tears can cause the spirits' return pathway to be slippery. November 1st is dedicated to babies and children. Our day one altar was dedicated to my nephew, who was born too soon and passed away the next day.

This is pan de muerto or day of the dead bread. We had to wrap it in plastic to keep the cats from eating it. I don't know if you can tell, but it's shaped like a little person with it's arms crossed over it's chest. It's a sweet bread traditionally reserved for the dia de muertos altar. There is also a glass of water which represents purity and is said to be refreshing to the spirits.

It is tradition to place seasonal fruits on the table as well as candles to light the way for the spirits to return home. For children it is customary to have lots of candy and sweets for them to "enjoy". It is said that the spirits enjoy the smell of flowers, so flowers are also placed on the altar to represent the frailty of life and for the spirits to enjoy the scent. Many people also place lots of sugar skull candies on the altar, but I couldn't find any and didn't have a mold to make them myself. Maybe next year.

You generally place a photo of the person to whom the altar is dedicated on the altar, in the center. If the altar is dedicated to more than one person, you can have several photos. November 2nd is for adults who have passed. We dedicated our day 2 altar to my great grandparents, My grandpa and Ramon's father.

It is also customary to place the deceased person's favorite foods on the table so that they may enjoy the essence of the food. I enjoy the memories that these foods invoke. My Great Grandparents always had creamed corn on hand for us to eat (don't ask me why) so I put out some creamed corn. I also added green jello, because my Papaw Walker used to take me out to his favorite restaurant and buy me green jello.

I have corn bread and milk and an onion for my Papaw Rayfield. It was his favorite meal and one that he ate almost every single day of his life. The kids added whoppers candies because they wanted to contribute and that was his favorite candy.

Lastly, Ramon's father gets to enjoy a shot of tequila with a beer chaser, because that is what he loved in life. He also loved tamales, but I don't know how to make those, so he kinda gets the short end of the stick. Lo siento Suegro! (I'm sorry father in law).  I have found this tradition to be fun and oddly comforting. It is great to prepare the altar and the food and be surrounded by happy memories of people that I cherished and miss dearly. It helps me to remember all of the good times I had with them and reminds me that I will be reunited with them in heaven some day. You don't have to be Mexican to celebrate dia de los muertos, so maybe next year you can join this american girl in her Dia de los muertos celebration. Also, if you happen to live in the Atlanta area you can join me at Atlantic Station on Sunday for Atlanta Day of the Dead, check it out here.

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