The Day of the Dead

Last Sunday Mexicans celebrated The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). I confess that until a couple of days ago I knew virtually nothing about that holiday. I would’ve guessed it was the Mexican version of Halloween.

But interestingly (as most of you likely already knew), I learned that actually it’s a day set aside to honor the memories of dead relatives and friends.

I like the idea of dedicating a day to remembrance of the friends and family who have gone on before us.

That seems to me to be a fine reason for a holiday.

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28 comments on “The Day of the Dead

  1. gatheringplaceseasonfour says:

    in Kenya: “communing with our ancestors”

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  2. shoreacres says:

    I love the way our All Souls/All Saints Day celebrations and Dia de los Muertos have intertwined down here. It’s a big deal, and the cemeteries are filled with families decorating, remember, and so on.. It’s interesting to me that Halloween hasn’t seemed to infiltrate the celebrations, or all the crazy vampire stuff that I hear is part of the culture now.

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  3. Joanna says:

    Latvians have something similar insofar as decorating the graveyards and holding a celebration in the graveyards to honour those who have gone before. I see that in both positive and negative ways. There is sometimes a hanging onto what has gone before and then there is a celebration of what has gone before. I do think it is healthy to think of death though, because there is an unhealthy denial that death occurs in our societies that can create trauma.

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    • Bill says:

      I really like the idea of pausing one day a year to honor the memories of dead friends and family. It feels right to me, and could help communities and families cohere I think. Glad to know the tradition is alive elsewhere too.

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  4. BeeHappee says:

    Bill, FYI – your posts are routinely not showing up in the Word Press reader. I get e-mail notifications, if not that, and your daily regularity, I would not know you posted.

    I always assumed Day of the Dead is an all Catholic thing. It is very big in Lithuania, although celebrated quite differently from Mexico.
    There, the festival is extended over two days. November 1st is called the Day of All Saints. It is federal Holiday and the day when those who died and were proclaimed as Saints are celebrated. November 2nd we call Velines (souls) and that is the day when all the deceased are remembered and celebrated. We do nothing with skulls and bones, but families gather in cemeteries, decorate the graves, pray and remember the dead. You visit the graves of your family on that day even if they are miles away, and light a candle on the grave. An old pagan tradition was to color eggs black and red and put them on the graves for good luck. Now, during Nov 1-2 you mainly see a sea of candles in every cemetery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • smcasson says:

      The past week or more, it’s been every other day’s post makes it to the reader. Today was an off day and I had to go lookin!
      Ever since I have owned a cemetery I have gotten a bad taste in my mouth by the stupid little RIP signs in people yards. I just want to honor those dead by respecting grave sites and their memories.

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      • BeeHappee says:

        Owned a cemetery? What do you do when you own a cemetery? Can I get a plot cheaper as a friend? 🙂
        We used to spend many hours in summer at the local cemetery at my grandma’s where great grandparens were buried. Grandpa would bring his scythe to cut the grass around the graves, and we would rake the sand around the graves and plant flowers and weed. Going to visit the graves was like a celebration of sorts, and for me as a kid, was really neat to ask questions about people who lay there, because grandparents always had stories about everyone. We would honor the dead at key holidays too, like Christmas eve by placing the dinner plates for them at the table and not clearing the table, but leaving the food overnight, so that the dead ‘come back and eat’.

        We were walking through our town cemetery which is downtown right next to the playground, and it ended up being a long conversation with kids how you do not climb on the tombstones. Being scattered all over the world as families, I feel lack of that connection of kids having those roots and understanding.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Hmm. I don’t know why the posts aren’t going to the reader. I haven’t changed anything on my end. I’ll try to see if there is a way to contact WordPress about it. Thanks for the heads up.

      Yes, the Day of the Dead is related to All Saints/All Souls Day. The celebration starts on November 1 and ends on November 2. I like the traditions you describe. Seems to me they would bond families together. I imagine older family members telling younger ones stories about those who have passed on. A pity there is no such tradition in our culture. It may exist among Catholics, but it isn’t part of our secular or Protestant traditions here.

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    • shoreacres says:

      Bee, I just posted my favorite All Saints/All Souls hymn up above. We were Methodist, but the celebrations were much as you described — minus the eggs and candles, but with a good many flowers.

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      • BeeHappee says:

        Thanks, Linda, nice hymn, and very interesting. I never thought much about all those 3 days and never thought that Día de Muertos is any different than All Souls. Aparently though in Aztec times it used to be in the summer, and was later moved to coincide with All Saints/All Souls.

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  5. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, wouldn’t our day of remembering the dearly departed for our culture be Memorial Day? Halloween is not a holiday that I like too much. To some degree, I have to tolerate it but it’s not a celebrated day for me. I don’t know about Virginia but here in Nebraska it seems to have become a huge holiday fueled by the candy and costume industry. The day after Halloween, Christmas is in full swing. Thanksgiving has become famous for Black Friday shopping that begins Thursday night. Holidays in many cases have lost their meaning and capitalism has changed them into cash cows for big businesses. Unless the cash registers ring up more sales than the last year, it’s counted as a bad year. Yeah, well, enough of that.

    The final tomato harvest was made yesterday. The weather has been so unusually warm that strange things are happening in the garden. Much to my surprise the potatoes have green foliage about two feet high. The dried up vines still have nice potatoes under them and the new green foliage has tiny marble sized potatoes under them. As far as I can see the potato plant has not grown from a seed potato. What’s up with that? The onions have started to sprout again so I’m not sure they will be good to store or even to eat. The temps continue to be in the 50s at night and 70s during the day. That’s about 20 degrees too warm for this time of the year. We should be freezing at night on a regular basis. We are three weeks past the first frost date with none in sight. I don’t know what to think of it all. I replanted a spring flower bed and found the tulips that I dug up were starting to sprout. I don’t think that’s normal for this time of the year. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what nature is up to this year.

    Have a great day of the dead.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m in full agreement with you about the commercial craziness of Halloween/Christmas. Fortunately they haven’t found a way to ruin Thanksgiving yet, but I’m sure they’re working on how to make money off of it. I think Memorial Day is supposed to be a day to remember dead soldiers. We don’t have a holiday dedicated to the memory of the dead generally.

      Our temps have been unusually warm here too. We’ll have highs in the high 70s the next couple of days with overnight lows in the 60s (!). It’s good for the gardens and pastures in the short term at least, but confusing to nature generally. I don’t know what to make of it either. A mild winter perhaps? We’ll see…

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        I’ve heard that there’s a usually strong El Niño this year…
        We have also gotten unseasonably warm again – we were running on schedule, with single digit (*Celsius) temperatures overnight and frost on the grass in the morning – but we’ve been outside in shorts and t-shirts the last couple of days, washing cars and cutting the grass: )
        Only trouble is, as Dave pointed out, things are going to get totally out-of-whack, if this keeps up for very much longer ):

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  6. Christians have a common practice of stealing pagan holidays. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though. It really has to do with taking the truth of a holiday and using it to celebrate the Truth.

    Thanks for your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yeah, our religious holidays are mashups of pagan and Christian traditions now. I agree that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Religious practices evolve.

      I enjoyed your latest blog post and look forward to reading your thoughts. Like you, I have hope. But we’re in an interesting period of transition now. I think that’s why we’re seeing such a rise in the number of so-called “Dones.”

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  7. EllaDee says:

    I like the idea of Day of the Dead too. I’ve always loved wandering old cemeteries pondering the inscripted summations of lives gone before, always loved family history and ancestry research… missing all the more those of my nearest and dearest who died when I was young… because my own family never talked about them or visited their final resting places. People live on in memories and stories.

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    • Bill says:

      With your interest in family and regional history I’m not surprised that it resonates with you. I think I’d prefer Day of the Dead to every other holiday we celebrate, other than Easter and Thanksgiving.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dearest Bill,
    Well, being raised Catholic in the deep south of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, I also know about the two special days of All Saints and All Souls Day. Too me the skulls and mockery around Halloween is kind of disturbing if you remember how each family would care for the graves of relatives by cleaning up, raking it, planting fresh flowers. In particular the chrysanthemum was used for that. When we moved to the USA 32 years ago and I received once a pot of chrysanthemums, it made me think of All Saints/All Souls Day… Funny how one associates specific flowers with certain holidays and cultural traditions.
    Nowadays with cremations taking over the burials, that tradition is slowly disappearing. Which is sad in a way.
    But here in the heart of Georgia we did honor all those that have past since last year’s All Saints Day and they were printed on a special insert and also being read out loud. So my Dutch Mom, who visited four times with us and knelt at the same Church we attend, the Episcopal Church, was being honored here as well. She died on January 27… I’m glad that we moved past Halloween, as I don’t like it and find it even disturbing and disrespectful of the traditions that we grew up in.
    Great subject and food for thought; as usual!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    PS in my hometown of Horst, Limburg, they will remember all the people that past away over the past year on Sunday the 8th. Don’t know why that is but anyway it brings families together for Mass and gatherings afterwards. It is a special way of communal grieving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Very interesting info Mariette and thanks for sharing it. I grew up Methodist and since posting this I’ve learned that Methodists do celebrate All Saints Day. But I have no recollection of that ever happening in church in either my childhood or as an adult. We definitely didn’t have a practice of visiting cemeteries and decorating graves then. A shame, as I think it’s a beautiful way to remember the dead and I like the way it brings families and communities together.

      So nice that the memory of your mother was honored at your church this year, and I’m sorry for your loss.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In my post of today, titled: {In Memory of Mom}, I’ve added this post as a link… This has been an interesting discussion! Thanks a lot and as for my Mom, our loss indeed but heaven’s gain! She is at Peace and can now support her loved ones even more.
        Having lived close to nature and to everything ‘growing’ has helped to also grow in Faith and that is the strongest support throughout our lives. Mom used to pray for her entire family, also for her straying sheep… May she manage to bring them back into the fold from where she is now.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It is not a Mass but NONES at 3:00 PM…

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  9. mukhamani says:

    Here too , every year,there are certain days specified by the HIndu calendar, all family members gather to remember their ancestors. Certain rituals are performed. People are very particular about these rituals as it is considered very important to remember the senior family members who are no longer with us.

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    • Bill says:

      That is such a beautiful tradition and a great way for a family or community to honor those who have passed away. I’m very pleased to learn how widespread this kind of tradition is.

      Liked by 1 person

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