Everyone knows I love holidays. Christmas. Thanksgiving. Halloween. Easter. The list goes on and on. So it might come as a shock to learn that there is one holiday that I haven't fully embraced...Day of the Dead.
It's one of the few holidays that my Mexican grandparents didn't celebrate. November 2nd was just another day. There were no colorful altars built for deceased friends or relatives. No offerings with their favorite foods and beverages. No sugar skulls. Not even Pan de Muerto. I knew nothing of the existence of Dia de Muertos.
It's not that my grandparents didn't care about the deceased, because they did. There were countless visits to the cemetery, to tidy up the graves of my brother and Gramm's third husband, when I was a kid. Weeds were pulled. Tombstones were washed. And fresh flowers were placed at each grave. While we worked, Gramm would tell us stories about the deceased. I loved hearing the stories about my brother. They always made me feel so close to him, even though I never met him. Same with Gramm's third husband, my mom's stepdad. Although, I do remember freaking out everytime I washed his tombstone, because Gramm's name was on it. (Sidenote: Gramm is to be buried with her third husband when her time comes. The tombstone already has both of their names on it. All that is missing is the date of Gramm's passing.)
I've gotten off topic a little, but the point is that I was taught to remember, respect and care for the deceased. But I never learned about Dia de Muertos.
During the six years that Hubby and I lived in the States, no mention was ever made of Dia de Muertos. Not by Hubby, his relatives, our Latino friends and neighbors nor by the people at our Spanish language church.
We arrived in Mexico just days before November 2nd, and the holiday passed, practically unnoticed. It wasn't until the following year that I learned that Day of the Dead was such a large celebration. It was the only thing the news programs talked about. I searched all over El Mercado that year for sugar skulls, with no luck at all. No one I knew had built an altar, but I noticed a steady flow of people taking flowers to El Panteon (the cemetery). And I got to taste my first Pan de Muerto.
I got to build my first miniature Altar de Muertos the year Pappy passed away. But like the other two that I've made since, it was for one of the kiddies' homework assignments.
Like my grandparents, Hubby's family doesn't celebrate Day of the Dead. Not because they don't care for the deceased, but because they believe we should shower our loved ones with flowers and gifts while they are still alive to enjoy them. And I couldn't agree more.
So, while I may never get to take part in a big Dia de Muertos celebration, my thoughts are filled with memories of those that are no longer with me.
Godspeed to all of you!