Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead
On November 1st, the girls and I created our annual Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead altar.
Día de los Muertos is typically celebrated between Halloween and November 2nd in Mexico (where the holiday originated) and in many other Latin American countries, as well as among Latino communities in the United States. There are many similar traditions in other cultures as well. The general idea is that the separation between the living and the dead is lifted on All Hallows Eve (Halloween), All Saints Day, and All Souls Day (November 1st and 2nd) and the spirits of the dead return to visit the living. This is not a macabre ritual; in fact, it is quite joyous as people flock to cemeteries to honor the lives of their loved ones, cleaning gravestones and placing photos and offerings, such as flowers (particularly marigolds), incense, candles, sweets, liquor, and other food items, to their relatives by their graves. Music is often played and there is an atmosphere of celebration. Altars are also made in homes and public places.
While I was not raised with this tradition, I embraced it in my teens after my mother died. As I did not live in the city where my mother was buried, I had no place to "go" to honor her life and so began to make altars in her memory on important days like the anniversary of her death and her birthday. Eventually, as I learned more about the Day of the Dead after studying the Spanish language and Latino culture in college and after living abroad in Latin America, I started creating an altar just on this honored day to celebrate my mother and other family members who had died. I have carried on this tradition each year with my daughters. They enjoy setting out the photos, candles, flowers, and sweets on our altar to our family members who are no longer with us. It is a great opportunity to teach the girls about their family history and the importance of honoring and remembering our loved ones.