I’d like to use this particular cultural tradition to answer a question that I’m frequently asked,
“How can you reconcile your Christian beliefs with some of the rituals and traditions of other cultures?”
Just because I educate myself (or my children) about other cultural practices doesn’t mean I compromise my religious beliefs. I enjoy sharing the anthropologic nature of my studies, but that in no way means I believe in, practice or accept every tradition/rituals of cultures from around the world.
I believe that by educating ourselves about those different from us will either inspire you to investigate further or even solidify your own beliefs. I try to focus on the common elements of the traditions I study. I’m intrigued by the similarities of the human spirit no matter what corner of the earth one is from. I’m learning that we, human beings, are in so many ways more similar than we are different, if you only open your heart and mind to let go of those internal prejudices.
El Dia Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is an ancient celebration of the memory of deceased ancestors that is celebrated on November 1 (All Saint’s Day) and November 2 (All Souls Day). It is a time to reflect on their lives, heritage, ancestors and meaning of their own existence ( a practice in many cultures).
A couple of questionable beliefs around this celebration are that the dead are in a “place” that’s neither heaven nor hell and that the dead come back to visit living relatives. While learning about and teaching this Mexican celebration to my children, I don’t focus on debating these beliefs but focus on (or scrapbook) the practices that are very much like our own, such as:
Ways of Celebrating the Life of the Deceased
· Memorial services are conducted to honor the dead
· Flowers are placed on graves
· Funeral wreaths are a form of floral presentations
· Favorite foods offered to the dead are later eaten at the end of the celebration by the living – similar to the repass my culture has after a funeral.
· Lighting a candle to remember deceased family members
It’s these types of connections that intrigue me and lead me to continue to find the common threads that weave the fabric of our lives.
El Dia Los Muertos is NOT the Mexican version of HALLOWEEN!
Research the meaning of the skulls at sites such as: http://www.dayofthedeadblog.com/
A special thanks to Michaele Angulo, Multi-Cultural Arts Instructor for research used in this post.