Día De Los Muertos is incredibly appealing. It’s a happy way to connect with our loved ones who have passed on and a way to share that yearning for their presence with other people. (Aya de Leon wrote a piece last month about cultural appropriation and Día De Los Muertos, but also described some of the ways that it is appealing, and I think she’s spot-on. To read that, click here.) Most cultures probably include some special way to remember the dead like this joyous holiday does. Without a time devoted to remembering our loved ones, maybe we lack an outlet or specific opportunity to remember them.
This past Sunday was All Souls’ Day in the church, which is a day when we remember those who have departed this life, especially those who have left us in the past year. Although it serves a purpose that is similar to Día De Los Muertos, it’s much more solemn. In these services (the ones that I’ve attended–I’m Lutheran), the departed’s name is spoken, and a bell tolls. The congregation may wait for the bell to complete its ring, or they may speak a verse for the departed as the bell dies out. The bell sometimes symbolizes the passage of the departed souls from this world into the one they’re sharing with God. Some other denominations of Christians may also light candles in memory of the dead. So in a different way, Christians still have an annual holiday during which to remember their loved ones.
Christianity and Mexican culture have their own winding histories with each other (having to do with conquerers asserting their beliefs on the indigenous cultures), so Día de lost Muertos and All Souls’ Day are obviously related and have had an effect upon each other. But no matter where you are or the what your cultural heritage is, it’s great to know there’s still a day for remembering. The version I’ve described in this post is simply how I’ve experienced this holiday in the past–though I do love seeing the altars set up around the campus by our socio-cultural student centers. Día De Los Muertos is indeed a wonderful holiday!
How else do people celebrate the lives of the people they’ve loved in life? Feel free to comment. I’m interested!