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Celebrating Life

Our first year celebrating Dia De Los Muertos.

"Mommy, can we go to the place where they put Poppy to visit him?"

This was a tough year for my family. My husband's grandfather died earlier this year and his absence has not gone unnoticed by my 5-year-old son.

Soon after, our beloved pet cat of 10 years also died suddenly.

"I miss Hoshi," my son would say to me and I would reassure him that Hoshi missed him too, but that he was OK.

Death is a tough subject, regardless of age. Today is the second day of the Mexican holiday, . My son's recent questions were the tipping point for me to do something tangible for him. This holiday was a great vehicle to do this.

My family is originally from Mexico, but not the area that celebrates this holiday, so I was not exposed to it until late in high school.

The holiday is meant to honor the dead by remembering their lives, the things they loved, the foods they ate and the impact they had on our lives. Traditionally, families would congregate at the cemetery and celebrate around their loved ones' graves with food and music but building altars in your home is also another way to keep their memory alive.

The celebration dates back to the indigenous cultures in Mexico, nearly 3,000 years ago and is traditionally held November 1 and 2. On November 1, children and infants are celebrated while November 2 adults are remembered.

So I did as many parents out there and googled "Dia de Los Muertos" and "altar" and "sugar skulls" and took in my results.

I found this site that made the traditional Papel Picado easy enough for my 5-year-old to do with me and he and I went to a sugar skull workshop to make our traditional sugar skulls to add to the altar.

I headed to Michaels and picked up some faux marigolds, or cempoalxochitls, which are the traditional flower associated with this holiday and then arranged family photos.

Afterwards, we arranged candles throughout and my son (with my help) lit them.

The overall experience has been a good one, with my son learning not only a new part of his heritage and culture but also that although the people (and pets) that he loved may be gone, they are not forgotten and its up to us to keep their memory alive.

¡Feliz Día de Los Muertos!

Rachael Ustorf November 03, 2011 at 04:45 AM
Although I am not Mexican, I have always loved Dia de Los Muertos and the Hispanic culture. How wonderful to be able to use this celebration as a way to keep ties with your culture and perhaps even begin a new tradition in your family.
Mayra Flores de Marcotte November 03, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Thank you for the comment, Rachael! Although Dia de Los Muertos is a Mexican tradition, there are several very similar traditions throughout the globe (that, and everyone can honor their dead in their home very similarly, with or without an altar). Some already honor the memory of the deceased with photos on their walls or mantels. In my opinion, this is not so different than an altar. =) My little boy got to light the candles last night again and even asked if we could leave "goodies" for Poppy and Hoshi. As we speak, there are candy bars in front of Poppy's picture and cat treats in front of Hoshi's.

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