In the US, we will be celebrating Halloween in a few weeks. We’ll all dress up, hand kids candy and try to scare each other to death.
In Latin America, they will be celebrating a similarly themed, but much more sacred holiday during the two days following: Días de los Muertos.
If you are Hispanic, you are probably familiar with the many traditions. But if you’re not and want to learn a little more, here are some ways to expose yourself to another culture. Note that you can pick all of these items up at Jet.com, where the more items you put in your cart, the cheaper they get.
Remembering Our Loved Ones
Dias de los Muertos is all about remembering and honoring those who have passed on. It incorporates elements of All Saints’ Day, which was the European tradition behind Halloween, and Mayan and Aztec traditions. Much how Americans think about their family members who have passed on Memorial Day, Latin America remembers them over these two days in the Fall.
If you have a child that is having a hard time dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, this can be a wonderful occasion to help them celebrate the life lived rather than dwelling on the life lost. Books like Remember Abuelito help children process these emotions—we like that this one does it in two languages. It also provides more insight into traditions, recipes and the meaning behind the holiday at the back of the book.
Some Traditions are the Same
You know how when you go to visit the cemetery you bring flowers with you? People do the same exact thing on Dias de los Muertos, only there are specific flowers for specific days. On the first day, it is traditional bring orchids to remember the children who have passed away. On the second, marigolds are brought in for the adults.
Some Traditions are Unique
While Días de los Muertos is celebrated all over Latin America, some regions have unique traditions. Guatemala is one of them. On the days of the dead, kites are created to fly at the cemetery to help families and friends remember those who have gone on. There are also massive community kites that are so large and complex that they actually have sponsors to help the community work together to create them.
If you want to participate in this tradition, you can make a simple kite by tying together some skewers, tracing an outline that will fit the skewers onto a white, plastic garbage bag and then decorating your kite with permanent markers. You can decorate with pictures. You can decorate with words. You can decorate in whichever way feels most appropriate to pay memoriam. Then, attach a string for flying.
This exercise combines cathartic therapy, artistic expression and fun together in a way that feels like a celebration, but also helps you heal if you’re feeling bogged down by grief. It brings joy to the memories which helps one function through the grieving process.