[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Oh my goodness, I love Mexican culture! It is rich with tradition and warm with familial love. When you are with a Mexican family, you are one of them- whether you speak their language or not. And I desperately wish I spoke their language more fluently!
Spanish vocabulary focusing around death and death care traditions is not widely taught in school. So what I do know, I have had to learn from the families I serve. My favorite teachers are the sweet little abuelas with kind, patient eyes. They are so wise with experience, and I love the stories they share of growing up in Mexico.
Their stories always have one common theme: tradition. The Mexican culture honors tradition in such a beautiful way. And while there are many Mexican traditions I love learning about, my favorite is Dia de Muertos, The Day of the Dead.
Dia de Muertos
Dia de Muertos has deep historical, cultural and religious meaning. You can read more in depth about it if you follow this link. But, for an abridged version, it is believed that the souls of the dead awaken and visit on this day.
Festivities, feasts and fun await the souls as they come back to earth for a short visit. They are greeted on Earth with the sweet scents of marigolds and mums- their colors vibrant and bold. The souls are then honored with photos and tokens of love left at the alter in their beloved memory. And, of course, they are celebrated with music, dancing, food and more.
It is a celebration for the young and old alike. For both the living and the dead. A nod to the circle of life and how it often completes it’s course more quickly than we would like. It is a meaningful celebration that my daughters and I attended with hesitation last year. We hesitated because we questioned whether we truly belonged. Afterall, we are not Mexican and our Spanish is terrible.
But, just as they always do, the Mexican community welcomed us as if we were their own. They shared their food, music and culture with us for an evening we will never forget.
At the very heart of the Dia de Muerto celebration is the ofrenda. For days prior to the celebration, community members gather to lovingly create this beautiful structure.
Everything about this Ofrenda is created with such loving attention to both tradition and detail. It is created to attract and invite the souls to this time of celebration. It is adorned in vibrant orange, which represents marigolds.
The marigolds are called the “flor de muerto” or the flower of the dead. Their sweet fragrance is said to attract the souls to visit the alter. But they also have a purpose for the living. The bold, vibrant colors act as a reminder to celebrate rather than grieve.
At the end of the ofrenda is the alter. It has been lovingly adorned with photos, candles and other tokens of love. Each placed by family and friends who wish to honor their loved ones. To me, it is a beautiful reminder that all cultures love and grieve differently. But the emotions of honor and remembrance are silently understood, regardless of language.
The cemetery is such an important place in the Dia de Muertos celebration. Families commonly go to the cemetery to leave small feasts on their loved one’s grave, welcoming them back.
In some communities the celebration includes a walk to the cemetery. However, our local cemetery is just a little too far for reason. So they set up a little cemetery here instead. I am told these, too, are considered ofrendas. If you look closely you will notice food and other tokens of love left for the souls.
The sounds of the celebration are even more amazing than the colors! There is nothing that brings a smile like a lively mariachi band- and this one is lively! Of course, I cannot understand most of what they sing or say, but it doesn’t matter. Their tone is upbeat and fun, inviting everyone to enjoy the traditional Dia de Muerto dances.
Ladies and young girls dressed in white waltz gracefully around the platform. Their faces are painted with sugar skull designs and their hair is pulled back with stately adorn. They are beautiful and almost poetic!
The candle dance is my favorite of all they perform. It is a graceful, slow dance, that features the fluid movement of light.
Who doesn’t like Mexican food?! I absolutely love it! And, while I am familiar with most commonly known dishes, I am not familiar with a colorful little bread called Pan de Muerto.
Just look at these beautiful breads!
Pan de Muerto is a round little bread and at the top there are cross bones. They must use a special form to form up the cross bones. It is explained to me that they only eat this bread to celebrate Dia de Muerto.
The purple glittery sprinkles on top make me think it will be sweet. But one bite and I realize it is just lightly sweet- not like a dessert.
This year Dia de Muerto is on Tuesday, November 1 and ends on Wednesday, November 2. Any local Mexican bakery will have these breads to celebrate.
Celebrate Dia de Muerto in Downtown Springdale
Our community is already preparing for the Dia de Muerto festivities! This year, Downtown Springdale is celebrating Dia de Muerto on Saturday, November 5. And if you drive down to the Shiloh Square between now and then, you will see they are already building the Ofrenda.
It is going to be an amazing celebration that you will absolutely love experiencing. To learn more about this year’s Dia de Muerto event click here.