Dia De Los Muertos, not the Mexican version of Halloween

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It’s October. Spooky season is alive and well – even in the era of the Rona. The candy aisles are bursting with Halloween themed packaging. Costume shops have popped up all over the place and my son reminds me Halloween is here every time we drive by the giant pumpkin on the State Fair Grounds. While trick-or-treating may not be a thing this year, again – the Rona, I am planning to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos with my family.

Growing up, we didn’t celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. While my dad immigrated to the US in the late 80s, the tradition of celebrating the holiday is something he did not bring along with him, and, honestly, it is a holiday I didn’t learn about until I was in college. Celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, the holiday coincides more so with the Catholic calendar’s All Saints’/All Souls’ Day than the creepy crawliness of Halloween.

While Dia de Los Muertos involves its good share of costumes, sugar, and skeletons – it is not the Mexican version of Halloween. It is a celebration and commemoration of the lives of loved ones who have since passed away. In Mexico, communities come together for parades and gatherings in remembrance of their deceased. In many homes, you might find an ofrenda, or altar decorated with photos, papel picado, flowers, food, and trinkets that were favored by their dearly departed.

A couple of years ago, I, along with a few Latina-identifying womxn, created an ofrenda to be displayed at the Latino Arts, Inc.‘s annual Dia de Los Muertos Ofrenda exhibit. It was the first time I had made an intentional effort to celebrate the holiday and to honor my maternal grandparents since their passing.

This year, in the midst of a global pandemic that has literally uprooted our lives, I want to take the time to pause as a family and honor our deceased family members and our ancestors who all had to have lived and died for us to be alive today. This year, I want to connect spooky season to thanksgiving with gratitude and acknowledgment that the body may deteriorate, but the spirit never dies. So, who will you pause to remember and honor on this upcoming Dia de Los Muertos?

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