Understanding Dia de los Muertos, Part 2. True meaning, a Celebration of Life

by Marianne Freeman September 23, 2020

Understanding Dia de los Muertos, Part 2. True meaning, a Celebration of Life

Day of the Dead (Spanish:  Dia de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated in Mexico. It is celebrated by people of Mexico living in other places, especially among the areas of the Unite States with significant numbers of Mexican immigrants. Family and friends gather for this multi-day holiday to pray for and r

Day of the Dead (Spanish:  Dia de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated in Mexico by its residents and is now gaining interest as a result of Mexicans living outside their country and influencing others in their surrounding communities. Family and friends gather for this multi-day holiday to pray for, and remember the person or persons who have passed.   The most important element of the celebration is the ofrenda.  An ofrenda is a home or gravesite altar with a collection of objects that represent, or were the items that the deceased person held dear during their lifetime. In the graveyards in Mexico, the burial site is raised with fresh soil and laden with marigolds. The ofrenda is then built at the head of the grave and arranged with favorite objects around a photo of the individual. Once the ofrenda is complete on October 31st, a vigil begins at the gravesite or home. Family members and close friends maintain the vigil through November 2nd. The favorite foods and drink of the loved one are prepared and often shared at the gravesite,  Each evening of the vigil, hundreds of candles are lit and the cemeteries become a magical array of candlelight and golden marigolds.. Some ofrendas are very elaborate, some very simple, but the effect and intention is the same, to create a space to welcome the loved one to return to and to help support their spiritual journey. In 2008, the tradition was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Everyone is welcomed to join in on the celebration, and nearly everyone in Mexico celebrates it. Over the past 2 1/2 years, our family has lost a husband, father, business partner and a son, a sibling, both were residents of Mexico at the time of their deaths.  We have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the celebration of Dia de los Muertos in central Mexico.  I struggle to find words to describe this celebration of life, emotional, inspirational, spiritual, beautiful do not begin to describe this experience.  I do know that being a part of Dias de los Muertos in the heart of Mexico has transformed my understanding and perception of the loss of those I have loved.  Sadness and loss will always remain, but what has been added is a tangible representation and celebration of their essence and contribution to the lives of all of us who live on with their memory.   





Marianne Freeman
Marianne Freeman

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