Dia de los Muertos

Thursday is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  Being raised Catholic, it is also All Soul's Day — the one you don't have to go to Mass for — as opposed to November 1st, All Saints Day — the one you do.

I had never really heard of it growing up, but have become exposed to it since moving to Southern California in 2001.  I think it is a beautiful tradition — and I have come to like it more than the over-blown Halloween in this country.  While the trappings might seem a little macabre, I think it is really a joyful day, albeit one that permits a little quiet reflection.  To me, it is a time to reflect upon lost loved ones and recall them into the here and now.  For families, I think it serves as a great mechanism to convey oral history as stories of the departed are related.

One of my favorite traditions is the laying out of extra place settings and ceramic versions of their favorite foods to entice the presence of the departed.  I got to thinking of my folks and what I should lay out tomorrow.

My father's favorite meals were always big family dinners at the holidays — Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So for Dad, I would lay out the Christmas ham with all the trimmings.

When my mom visited me here in San Diego, I was always tickled by how much she was willing to try new things even when in her 80s.  So, for Mom, I'm choosing her latest (last?) favorite — I'm setting out a nice bowl of pho.

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4 thoughts on “Dia de los Muertos

  1. So tell me… what are All Soul's Day and All Saints Day? I've started working for/singing in a choir for a church that's heavily Catholic-influenced, and I don't know much about their traditions. This past Sunday they were talking about All Soul's and All Sants Days, and I had about no idea what was going on. =P
    And I think that's a really cool thing to do in honor of your mother and father.

  2. This is a wonderful post. I think El Dia de los Muertos is one of my favorite cultural traditions. I often feel that in American society, we've lost a bit of the reverence for our ancestors. It is important to set aside time to reflect upon where we come from. I also personally view death as a necessary, even beautiful, part of the life cycle. Organisms are born, they die, and others are born. Life surely wouldn't be special without death, and happiness would be meaningless without ever experiencing loss.
    And the part about your mom, that's a beautiful memory/observation. Sounds like she's passed on her excitement for experiencing new things. Pho is such a great comfort food, too. Feliz dia de los muertos.

  3. Thanks Hapa! The funny thing is that growing up we were strictly meat and potatoes (and spaghetti!). I never had Chinese food, and didn't know that Vietnamese or Indian cuisines even existed until I went away to college. Later in life, Mom seemed to shrug off worrying about if something was different, it was great. I think she surprised herself!

  4. I was reading on a plane that Oakland, CA, has a big street festival on Day of the Dead where spectacular remembrances – tables of food, altars with candles – are lined up along a street at dusk. Sounds like the Bay area has really embraced Dia de los Muertas.

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