Do you celebrate Day of the Dead? It’s a Mexican holiday but I think it’s something everyone who has ever lost someone could benefit from taking part in. It’s hard when you lose someone you love because of the finality of the situation but when you celebrate Day of the Dead, there is a comfort to be had every year. It’s about being soft and being strong at the same time.
First, let me start by telling you what Day of the Dead is really about. I know it follows immediately after the pagan holiday, Halloween, but it is not the same. Not at all. One holiday is celebrated by dressing up and begging for candy from strangers, the other is celebrated by building alters and remembering loved ones who we’ve lost.
Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that lasts for 2 days, November 1-November 2.
November 1st is Dia de los Inocentes, honoring children who have died. In preparation of the holiday, the graves are cleaned and those of the children are decorated with white orchids and baby’s breath. Cleaning the headstones can involve pulling up weeds and removing any debris before decorating. It’s a chance to ensure everything looks neat and tidy, and that the graves serve as worthy memorials to lost loved ones. In Mexico, graveyards are often publicly owned, unlike in the United States when they are often private, so it’s the collective job of the community to maintain them. November 2nd is Dia de los Muertos, honoring adults, their graves are decorated with bright orange marigolds. On Day of the Dead we honor our dead with festivals and celebrations; it’s a marriage of indigenous Aztec ritual and Catholicism.
We believe that our dead loved ones would be insulted by mourning or sadness, so on Day of the Dead we celebrate the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties and activities that they dead enjoyed in their life.
I like that Day of the Dead recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up. On Day of the Dead, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with loved ones. It’s a very healthy way to look at death and takes away some of the fear of the unknown.
I like to think of it as a way of staying connected to those I love that have passed on. Sure the connection is based on building an altar and spending a day or two celebrating their lives and my life with them but it helps. In the end, it makes me feel not so much like I lost them but like they are still with me, all around me.
I find this particularly comforting on Dia de los Inocentes. I don’t have a headstone to decorate with marigolds or photos to use on an altar but I do take the day to remember the baby I lost. Losing a baby was one of the hardest things I’ve ever survived and Dia de Los Inocentes is very personal for me because it’s not about a spectacle or a grandiose gesture, in my case. It’s about quietly grieving my loss but at the same time being thankful that I had that baby in my life for as long as I did. I celebrate the possibility and the blessing.
In a weird way it gives me closure while at the exact same time it makes me feel connected to my baby and to the world in away that I don’t on most days. For me, Day of the Dead, especially Dia de los Inocentes, is about being strong while being soft.
Who would you celebrate on Day of the Dead?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Georgia Pacific. The opinions and text about Day of the Dead are all mine.