Today is Dios de los Mertos (Day of the Dead) otherwise known as All Saints Day. I had the privilege to experience this beautiful holiday when I lived in Mexico up close and personal.
Day of the Dead in Mexico has nothing to do with Halloween in the United States. The two get confused and rightfully so. Day of the Dead is full of skulls, cemeteries and the dead, but it is not what you think!! This beautiful holiday is about remembering loved ones and honoring their lives.
First the house or the area around the grave must be cleaned. The offerings placed on the altar for Dia de los Muertos often consist of a wash bowl, basin, razors, soap and other items the traveling spirit can use to clean-up after the long journey. Pictures of the deceased are also placed on the altar as well as personal belongings for each person and any other offerings the deceased may enjoy such as a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of tequila. Candles are used to help light the way for the spirits as well as other decorative items such as papel picado (tissue paper cut-outs) wreaths, crosses and flowers. Certain Dia de los Muertos dishes are also placed on the altar to help feed and nourish the traveling souls. Some of these offerings also double as the four main elements of nature…earth, wind, water, and fire. These are represented by movable or light-weight items such as tissue paper cut-outs (wind,) a bowl of water, candles (fire) and food (earth.)
My favorite and the most popular “Dia de los Muertos” ofrenda is sugar skulls. Sugar skulls are a traditional folk art from Central and Southern Mexico used to celebrate Day of the Dead. Mounds of colorful sugar skulls are sold by vendors in the village open air markets during the week preceding Day of the Dead. The skulls are made of a sugar mixture that has been pressed into molds and then dried. The dried sugar skulls are decorated with icing and sometimes non-edible items such as colored foil, feathers or sequins. The skulls are placed on the offerings as a sweet for the loved one to enjoy.
I invite you to remember a loved one who has passed today. Today I honor my great grandmother Haruyo. She was born in Japan in 1896 and was the mother of 9 children. I had a very close relationship with her even though she did not speak English. She spoke to me with her golden heart. She was the kindest most compassionate person I have ever met. She would teach me how to dance the traditional Japanese dances. We would put on kimono’s and she would show me how to hold my hands just so. We would dance to honor the sun and the rain who would then nourish the crops that would feed us. She would look at me and we would both break into unstoppable giggles. She watches over me daily and quietly guides my heart to truth.