Days of the Dead: A Celebration

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In Michoacan, Oaxaca and Chiapas, in Mexico City, and in communities throughout America and Latin America the celebration begins. It is los Dios de los Muertos; the Days of the Dead.

I want to tell you, I want to tell you all about it. Immerse you in a holiday I’ve only ever known second-hand. I wish I could instill the strange joy of this communion of spirits, but you’d need to read it right. You’d need to see the right video, and read the right book, maybe Barbara Kingsolver… and have that appreciation creep up on you, firsthand.

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Los Dios de los Muertos, my favorite adopted holiday. I like it better even than Christmas. I’m fascinated. I want to be in Oaxaca today, and see the elaborate altars, join the candle light vigil as the spirits come through the veil. I want to decorate my daughter’s cheeks with Marigold pollen, and buy calaveras de azucar, ‘sugar skulls’ to feed her.

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I wanna show you.

It looks, maybe, to an outside observer, like a wildly macabre gathering. Everywhere skeletons, grinning and leering, poised in different actions. Some move, some don’t. Special breads leer from plates in the shape of skulls. Children, everywhere, accepting goodies, working to decorate the ‘ofrendas’ or altars so they are astonishing, breath-taking, transcendent.

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And at night, a vast sea of candles, flickering across the graveyard, as people await the spirits of those who departed.

Look…

I can’t show you, not really, but if you close your eyes you’ll realize you’re a part of this celebration. You have history and family and spirits too. You are very much a part of this dance between the dead and living. This is the short span, the living, breathing part; but we take our place in the ever turning wheel. All our atoms are borrowed from the soil, but you have the privilege to dance above for a little while.

So celebrate the two days reserved in their honor: Celebrate the lives of your dead.

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Los Dios de los Muertos

History

Spirit

Altars

Additional Resources

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20 thoughts on “Days of the Dead: A Celebration

  1. This holiday fascinates me too. I tried to write something up, but couldn’t have expressed it this well so I gave up. I’m glad you did it. :)

    I like Barbara Kingsolver’s descriptions of Days of the Dead, too. But you could have already guessed that.

  2. I’ve always wanted to see Los Dios de los Muertos in person. The colors just look spectacular and the sentiment behind the whole celebration is beautiful.

    Thank you for this!

    K.

  3. I came here through the nablopomo randomizer, but I’m struck by your writing…so evocative. Love the descriptions and photos. Thanks for a beautiful post.

    Also…love your header. :)

  4. Robin- Well, you should anyway. :)

    That’s a kind thing to say, but I felt the same sort of inability to express it the way I wanted to. Just did the best I could. Which is your favorite Barbara Kingsolver book?

    Kate- Me too. And thank you for visiting, I’m having fun looking at some of the new blogs from Nabloum. . . from the other site. lol I’ll hafta spend some time checking yours out.

    J- Thank you for the very kind words! I futzed with it for awhile, the header. That randomizer is a nifty tool.

  5. Los dias de los muertos is a wonderful holiday and tradition. In Mexico, there is a connection between the living and the dead. Each is part of the other. Not surprisingly, Mexicans don’t fear death as they accept it as part of the natural cycle of life. They know they aren’t really gone. They live on in the lives and hearts of those they love.

  6. Thanks for reminding me of this. I’ve been fascinated for years (funny how you learn about these things though…i only know about it because of a wonderful computer game called Grim Fandango…a kind of Noir Art Deco gangster tale set in the land of the dead that takes much of it’s artistic style from the Days of the Dead. Anyway, I was thirteen and enthralled, and since then have always wanted to see it, but I ramble) but never remembered it on the days. I know I’m a bit late but thanks for highlighting this.

    Here’s to those who’ve moved on. Gone but not forgotten, friends and family who are still loved as they continue on whatever journey they continue on. Still loved, and still bringing a smile to my face. I’ll raise a glass later.

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  8. Oops, i forgot to link to wikipedia. Go search for it. Basically it’s an adventure game made by Lucasarts in which combines film noir with Aztec mythology for the basis of it’s plot and artistic style. The plot takes place over the four years it takes to journey to the seventh circle, each chapter being one year on on the day of the dead. The visual style is incredible with every character designed to look like calacas. One really nice touch is that because it’s always the day of the dead, the streets are mostly abandoned apart from the lonely and lost. This is because everyone who’s got a home to go to has gone home.

    Anyway, PC games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but artistically this is one of the best and most fascinatingly rich. Look it up, even if you don’t play it.

  9. Thank you for those lovely pictures and memories. I spent the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca about a decade ago. Truly amazing. Unfortunately, I learned once I got home, that my camera was malfunctioning so I have no photographic memories of all the terrific shrines and graveside celebrations.

    I hope to go again some year.

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