My husband was in Guatemala several years ago when the Day of the Dead was being celebrated, and he says it was one of the most impressive sights he had ever seen. This video is very similar to what he saw, people picnicking and flying kites in cemeteries and displaying colorful giant kites. I wrote about this tradition in Endless Chain, and I was delighted that he got to see the real thing.
The Day of the Dead is for the most part celebrated in the Hispanic culture since it comes originally from the Aztecs. But over time it has been westernized and embraced by the Catholic Church, and the dates moved to All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.
During that time people flock to the cemeteries to clean the graves and tombs of their loved ones and in Guatemala to fly kites, which are said to bring messages to those who have passed into heaven. Altars are made that may include photos of the dead, statues of saints mingled with small skeletons and skull candy.
Participating in the Day of the Dead means taking the time not only to remember those whom we love — and continue to love though they are no longer in the land of the living–but also to celebrate their lives and in a sense to resurrect their spirits for a brief time. The Day of the Dead reminds us of our fear of death so we can stare into its skeletal face and chuckle.
Do you have a ritual for celebrating your loved ones who have passed on? Birthdays you still remember and celebrate? Special days when you visit cemeteries? I’m reminded that I don’t have a time set aside, but I’ve kept heirlooms and each time I see them, I remember. We each find our way, don’t we?