Celebrate Day of the Dead this year to honor your loved ones

Milenne Quinonez , Columnist

As the weather gets colder, and the trees turn a brighter red and orange, we grow more and more excited about fall, those yummy seasonal Starbuck drinks and our favorite flannels we’ve shoved in the back of our closet. Not to mention nearly everyone’s favorite holiday, Halloween. I know everyone is ecstatic for spooky season and don’t get me wrong, I’m right there with you! Disney Halloween movies, classic horror films and all of Tim Burton’s movies! It’s truly a treat. 

I will admit whoever came up with the idea was truly a genius. Although America celebrates Halloween by dressing up as whoever you want to be, while collecting candy from door to door and yelling “trick O’ treat” all night,  this holiday stems from another holiday celebrated in such an amazing country and culture. It makes you realize how sacred this holiday truly is. 

Even though I was born and raised in America, Halloween never really meant anything to me, it was just a day to dress up and get candy. But as a child of immigrant parents from Mexico, who also came here at a young age, Día De Los Muertos, or in English as everyone knows it, Day of the Dead, was traditionally celebrated in our home. 

Day of the Dead is a two-day celebration, beginning on Nov. 1 and ending on Nov. 2. It is a day where families get to celebrate the death of their loved ones. Not like mourning the dead, but instead celebrating life and the wonderful life that was lived. 

According to the online History website, “The roots of the Day of the Dead, celebrated in Mexico among those of Mexican heritage in the United States and around the world, go back some 3,000 years, to the rituals honoring the dead in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.”

These two days are celebrated differently. Day one is to celebrate infants and children that have passed away, which are believed to have a special place in heaven, called ‘Angelitos’ also known as little angels. The second day is to honor the adults who have also passed away.

A tradition that most families do during the Day of the Dead is set up ‘ofrendas’ which are known as altars, using calaveras and Aztec marigold flowers. These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offering and the strong scents and color are to guide the souls to the cemeteries and to their families.

 

These altars typically consist of pictures of deceased family members, with candles all around with food and bottles of tequila and mezcal. The food is normally the favorite of the deceased, and it is believed that the deceased eat the ‘spiritual essence’ of the offerings. Families can also be seen having picnics around their graves or building the altars in their home.

This tradition is one I hold dear, after visiting Mexico for the first time in my life. I had the privilege to visit my great grandfather, and my great uncle’s grave. After hearing stories from my mom and grandmother, and more as I arrived in Mexico, it made me feel that much closer to home and them. I watched as my great aunt cleaned the grave, it was like a little house they had built around it, where some of my other family members were buried and it was touching to see how connected she was to the grave. 

There she had buried children and the love of her life. As she swept through the old leaves and flowers that were left, she maintained the grave as if it was their home and she was expecting them. The old age in her eyes could tell stories of her past, as she remembered those memories she smiled because death and life are temporary. 

My little cousin, who is only 5 years old, danced and sang to them. He was too young to understand the concept of death but to him and my family it wasn’t sad. It was a celebration of their life. 

So, what I’m saying is yes enjoy Halloween for what it is. But even if your beliefs of death are different and you don’t believe in the afterlife that is ok. You don’t need to believe in that to celebrate the life of a loved one that has passed. Light a candle against a picture, take a shot of tequila and eat delicious food with them because even in death they deserve to be celebrated and most of all remembered.