Honoring our Dead

Honoring our Dead

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated throughout Mexico and the Southwest states, and coincides with the Christian All Souls and All Saints Days. Pictures of the deceased ancestors are placed on special altars with offerings of their favorite food and drink. Candles are lit to light their way home, and soap and water to freshen-up after their long trip back are also often placed on altars. Trinkets they were fond of, symbols they would understand, and gifts are left to communicate to them that they are always in the hearts of those they left behind, and that they are still part of the family even though they aren’t physically with us any longer.

Families often spend time at the cemetery with loved ones, bringing food and drink along with all the other necessities for a picnic. However, at this picnic the deceased is the guest of honor. Dia de los Muertos is a time of joy because we know that we are surrounded by those that we love—both living and dead.    The Day of the Dead began as an Aztec celebration originally celebrated in August. Skeletons and skulls were used as symbols for death and rebirth. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it and considered it a “moving-on” to a higher level of consciousness. When the Spaniards came and converted the Aztecs, the Aztecs incorporated the symbols of the crucifix and devil into the celebration, which the Spaniards moved to November 2nd. All Soul’s Day (sometimes called the “Day of the Dead”) is always November 2 (November 3rd if the 2nd falls on a Sunday).   All Soul’s Day is a Roman Catholic day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away. This comes from the ancient Pagan Festival of the Dead, which celebrated the Pagan belief that the souls of the dead would return for a meal with the family. Candles in the window would guide the souls back home, and another place was set at the table. Children would come through the village, asking for food to be offered symbolically to the dead, then donated to feed the hungry. Both of these holidays are really a celebration of Life, as it is believed that we move from the dream, or life…into reality and the light.

Celebrating our ancestors and our dead is truly a Little Bit of Beauty™!

How do you celebrate the members of your family and friends that have passed?




  1. ABC Dragoo 12 years ago

    First of all, I love all the alters and day of the dead skeletons in Mexico-I absolutely adore the folk art.

    Secondly, to answer your question: I make their recipes or favorite recipes on their day. I suppose I learned that from my mom, because she always made a pineapple upside down cake for my grandpa.

    So with that tidbit, I have been taught that is the right thing to do.

    Then again, I buy yellow roses for my mother in law, because I know she loved them.

    I guess I do a lot of different things, depending upon who it is that I am honoring.


  2. Michelle Mangen 12 years ago

    As ABCD mentioned it depends on the person and also where they are buried.

    In the case of my father who is buried 16+ hours from where I live I typically just think of him on the anniversary of his passing. I don’t really do anything special.

    For other friends who have passed — sometimes there spouse has a party to celebrate the time they did spend on earth.

    For one very special person I write them letters every year as my way of keeping them in touch with what has happened.


    • Author
      Irene Turner 11 years ago

      Lovely, and I totally agree that it depends on the people involved, the one’s who passed and those of us left behind, thanks for stopping by

  3. Javier Zion 11 years ago

    It’s always interesting to read about someone else’s traditions. Many religions and cultures honor their dead. Often they do so at the end of summer. It seems like an appropriate sort of time, the time of year when it is becoming more night than day, more cold than warm. It is a good time to gather the children or grandchildren around your feet and tell those stories about their ancestors for it is in the memories of the young that the ancestors live on. This is the only immortality we can hope for in the mundane world. This is also the time of year that tradition says the veil between the worlds is thin – between the living and the dead, the mundane world and the spirit world. Some say the dead come to visit their loved ones who are still in the world.

    • Author
      Irene Turner 11 years ago

      Lovely and thoughtful response Javier. thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your comment. I always find that my veil is thinnest between 3am and 5 am. I find I often wake up then and it’s a good time to meditate…often with the feeling that those have left come to see me. It’s rather lovely too

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