The Day Of the Dead (in Mexico & Elsewhere)
While most of the world regards death as the end, The Catholic Church recognizes that this is just a movement towards a future life: be it heaven or hell.
Nowhere is this more appartent than in Mexico (and the U.S. as well), when families gather to celebrate those who have died. It starts in the graveyards across the country. The solemn air that fills the lands of sorrow and duel is reshaped with the friendly warmth that’s carried by families, they walk proudly through the resting place, melancholic eyes hide in the faces of celebration. Through their pain they smile. This is a party for those we miss. When faced against their gravestone we do not succumb to the hole they left in our soul. We allow their idea to makes us whole again. This day, they walk alongside us and remind us that they never left. This is the day of the dead.
In houses, schools, public plazas, a golden shrine.
A rich yellow flare caresses the streets, guiding all souls into a sacred place. A place of peace and memories, a stairway of tales and dreams. A wound in our hearth gets exposed, we show our mourn, we adorn it. We dress it in papel picado, we cover it in cempasúchil, we let candlelight shine over the fondly remembered faces. Their pictures look at us, they make their presence be felt. We welcome the lost with objects they cherished. Mundane pleasures gain a new light filling the room with the ghost of moments lost. The cigarettes that were once an annoyance, now become the memory of a mellow afternoon. Their favorite foods imbue their air with the peace of a thousand dinners. The toys they grabbed in their little hands sound with the laugh of a short-lived dream. We are nourished by their presence. In these memories we are reunited.
A mosaic of Mexico’s passion is exposed to the world.
In a little town a dissonant song is heard through the streets, bells of different sizes ring from churches’ tops, the sound of solemn duty guides all towards the graveyard. Kids walk alongside their parents watching the ceremonial parade and take part in the wordless oath of tradition.
Women in colorful dresses walk on the streets, their skeleton-painted faces are shadowed by giant ornamented hats. La Catrina is how we see dead. Always smiling, always cheerful, always welcomed. And on this day, She dances beside us.
Families prepare to go to sleep. The goodnight wishes are given as usual. Blankets and pillows are passed around. through the candlelight, they stare at the sky. The rough touch of the graveyard’s ground kisses their body as they lie peacefully. On this day the whole family sleeps beneath the same star-covered ceiling. The ones that remain beside the ones that are no more. Together they sleep in this land of eternal slumber.
A little box is opened with ceremonial care, instruments are taken out by hasteless hands. A brush gets the center of attention. Carefully he faces the thin yellowish bones that once stood beside him. He firmly grabs the remains of those who have departed, he holds them with care and love. And in peace he starts cleaning.
In cities and towns, kids get dressed in colorful costumes. Little monsters of folklore roam the streets in search of candy and a pleasant night. A foreign tradition grabs the attention of those who only know the day of the dead for its sweet bread and the smell of the marigold. Of those too young to feel the ghost around them.
And the bells keep ringing.
A tradition beyond beliefs, outside reason or religion.
We summon our loved ones through rituals and altars, we embrace their idea and let it fill the air, we welcome it into our hearts. We invoke their spirit. And in wholeness we rest. We observe a world reshaped by tradition, we breathe the sweet smells of celebration, of cempasúchil, mole, and pan de muerto. Amidst the light of the candles echoed in the picture frames, we laugh. This is a party. This is the Day of the Dead.
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The name at the end of this text belonged to a loving man. In my mirror I see his face. In my actions I see his teachings. I’m grateful for sharing credits with him. His idea brought this to life.
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By. Víctor Suárez.