El Dia de Los Muetos
In many cultures around the world, people feel the very human need to honor and remember their ancestors and important events from the past. El Dia de los Muertos (aka Day of the Dead) and the Roman Catholic All Saints or All Souls Day are two of the most popular celebrations that honor the dead in Mexico. The focus of these holidays is on prayer and remembrance of friends and family who have died. Entire families participate in the typical traditions that include building private altars honoring the departed and visiting the graves of the deceased.
For Mexicans expressing these connections with those that have departed are humorous rather than morbid. Throughout Mexico, and especially in Michoacán cemeteries are fearful places but an occasion for a family gathering. Often spending the night by candlelight, extended family groups pray, reminisce, sing, and feast on delicious homemade delights, frequently enjoying many of the departed's favorite meals.
I recently spent a Halloween weekend on the Northern California coast and was privileged to attend a Dia de los Muertos celebration that took place at the Gualala Arts Center. Many beautiful and fascinating shrines were present and I spent some magical moments examining these complex and touching homages to loved ones across the great divide.