I love the tradition of Dia de Los Muertos, but have never celebrated it before. The Day of the Dead is a festival that actually spans two days—November 1st and 2nd. In Mexico, where it is a National holiday, November 1st is dedicated to children who have died and the 2nd is dedicated to adults.
During the festival, families gather at cemeteries to honor family and friends who have died. They bring marigolds and candles to decorate the graves. They build special alters and fill them with pictures and memorabilia of the dead. They may also bring the favorite food and drinks of the departed, all in an effort to encourage the souls to visit and hear their prayers and stories.
I suppose to many people to might sound a bit unsettling to think about gathering up the family and heading to the cemetery for a celebration. But I think it is lovely to spend one day every year honoring and celebrating the lives of those who have died.
The festival takes place on the same days as the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. On All Souls Day, I will go to church to pray for the soul of my Father who died this year. In the Catholic faith, the departed may spend time in Purgatory where they remain until they are purified and ready for Heaven. They may be assisted in this process by others saying prayers for them. So I will go and say my prayers for him. And then I will go home and eat his favorite candy—chocolate-covered cherries—and have a glass of wine while I look at old pictures, think about our life together and tell him that I miss him and will always say prayers for him.
So that will be my first official Dia de los Muertos celebration. I encourage everyone to consider taking some time this week to honor and celebrate those who have gone before us. And thank them for being part of our lives.