I think the Day of the Dead Holiday is a great Holiday to share with kids. What? Why would I want to teach my kids about death and skeletons? November 1st, Day of the Dead, is a great opportunity to talk about death in a positive way about how our loved ones who may be gone but are still with us in spirit. As a family, we use the day to share the Chocolate Cake Moments that we had with someone special who we miss. And, of course, decorate with fabulous bright colors, candy skulls, and have a party where you eat, eat, eat. Let’s not forget that. But let me explain why I love the Day of the Dead Holiday.
I spent part of my childhood in Mexico City. My father worked for Motorola and we lived in Mexico for four years while he was building a factory for the company. (I wish I could offer my kids the opportunity to live overseas for awhile, but that’s another subject.) So, I went to middle and high school in Mexico City at the American School. Not only did I get to learn Spanish fluently but I really enjoyed some of the cultural traditions. During my first October in Mexico City, I got to see a transformation in the city. All of sudden every little store and street vendor had candy skulls out, which I thought were cool. The paper stores started displaying the colorful papel picado – or cut out tissue paper “flags” that show elaborately dressed skeletons enjoying various daily scenes of life. The fresh flower stalls suddenly had more yellow marigolds in stock and elaborate floral arrangements on display. Stores had little Day of the Dead shrines or altars set up to show you how to build your own. The shrines are just a physical way to put out things that remind you of your loved one. For us, it gets the family talking about how Grandpa loved this or that.
So, I loved all of the color and pageantry and funny skeleton art, but when I saw what people did on Day of the Dead, I came to appreciate what the day is about. On November 1st, Day of the Dead, people would either head to the cemeteries or have a party in their homes that was all about celebrating their dead loved ones. Sounds odd, right? But here’s the thing. The Mexican culture embraces death as just another aspect of life. It is not to be feared. And when you are gone, you are not truly gone. Here in the US, we tend to silently mourn for our dead loved ones. Once the funeral is over, the grieving and remembrance becomes a private affair. On Day of the Dead in Mexico, you throw one heck of a party for your loved ones. You serve their favorite food, maybe play their favorite music. Your Day of the Dead shrine has pictures of your loved ones, you leave out some of their favorite food, or other objects that represent what they loved or meant to you in life. It is a way to remember and celebrate their life. It is thought that the spirits of your dead loved ones come and share in this party. Whether you believe that or not, Day of the Dead is a great way to remember the Chocolate Cake Moments you had with someone special who is gone. I want someone to throw me a party when I am gone.
Does your family celebrate Day of the Dead? Tell me how.