One of my favorite Mexican traditions has got to be Día de Los Muertos or the Day of the Dead that occurs every year on November 2nd. To honor our loved ones who have passed we assemble altars with their pictures, objects that belonged to them, alfeñique or sugar skulls, candles, colorful tissue paper banners called papel picado, cempazuchitl also known as marigolds, pan de muerto (seasonal sweet bread), seasonal fruits, alcohol of choice, favorite foods and sweets. The altar is like an invitation for the deceased to journey back from the land of the dead or heaven (whatever you chose to believe) and spend the day among the living. This day is not meant to be sad or morbid, it is a celebration of the lives of those who have died and letting them know we haven’t forgotten them.
Growing up my mother did not set up altars on Dia de Los Muertos, mostly because all the items traditionally used we couldn’t find at our local stores or we couldn’t cross the items across the border. But she always lit a veladora or candle and set out flowers in honor of her mother, my Mamá Juanita and some years later my dad’s father, my Papá Canuto. Even though her altar couldn’t be elaborate, my mother would tells us all about the customs people from her rancho would do.
This year I decide to build my very own altar in my home and while I couldn’t find everything I wanted to lay out, I think I did a great job. While I don’t have kids, I do want to have them and I wonder what traditions I want to pass down to them. This is definitely one of them.