Remembering loved ones on the Day of the Dead

Photo from My Heart of Mexico blog

In my native Mexico, customs and traditions run deep. One such custom is the Day of the Dead. This ancient holiday has become popular in recent years, and it’s even been featured on Hollywood films. However, it holds a very special and personal meaning for each Mexican family, including my own.

The Day of the Dead has profound and ancient roots that go back to the time before Europeans arrived in the Americas.

In Mexico, the ancient Aztecs held a festival to honor their dead and their god of the underworld. They believed that on one special day of the year, the souls of the dead could journey back to this world and visit their loved ones. The Aztecs would then prepare offerings of food and drink to welcome their ancestors.

After Christian missionaries arrived, this ancient festival merged with the feast of All Saint’s Day, and that’s how the modern Day of the Dead festival came to be. It’s now a day full of colorful imagery, with candy skulls, face paint, and complex altar offerings for the dead.

Despite the name, the Day of the Dead isn’t a celebration of death. It’s actually a celebration of life. It’s a day to remember those who have left this world and the life we shared with them. It’s not a day or mourning, but of remembrance.

For me, as a Mexican, this holiday is one of the most important days of the year, just as much as Christmas. Every year, I set up an altar offering in my home with bread, candy skulls, fruit, tamales, candles, cut paper, marigolds, and pictures of the people I love that have gone.

Day of the Dead offering. Source: My Heart of Mexico blog

This is an important family ritual because it’s how my children learn about their roots. Although my grandparents died long before they were born, my kids know who they are because we set up an offering for them every year. They know the names of great-grandma and great-grandpa, and that they liked to have tamales and a drink of tequila.

The Day of the Dead offering is different for every Mexican family because it depends on what their loved ones liked to eat. In fact, it’s common for Mexican people to tell their families what kind of food they would like in their offering after they die. My mother-in-law told us she wanted a big bowl of shrimp soup and a bottle of Coke, so that’s what we put in the offering for her.

This year is the first we put out an offering for my sister. I get so sad thinking that leukemia and chemotherapy made it impossible for her to enjoy eating anything in the months before she died. In the end, she was completely unable to eat. She couldn’t keep anything down. She told me that’s what she hated the most about being sick.

So we’re going to set up an offering for her, and hopefully a part of her will return and know that we’re still thinking about her. She enjoyed this part of the year so much because there was always something delicious for her to eat. At least, we can make sure she has a nice food offering waiting for her.

Day of the Dead offering. Source: My Heart of Mexico blog

I believe that people only truly die when there’s no one to remember them anymore. That’s why for me, it’s important that my children learn to cherish and keep the Day of the Dead. They’ll be the last people on Earth to remember their grandmother and my sister, and they’ll set up an offering for them, as well as for me and their father when we’re gone.

The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life and love, and a way to make sure our loved ones go on living after they’re gone. I know when I die, my soul will grow wings. As long as there’s a lighted candle and marigold petals to guide me, I will find my home.

Please show me some love and click on the green heart!

Learn more about the Mexican Day of the Dead at My Heart of Mexico blog.