Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ladybug Nun, Halloween and the Dia de los Muertos





Today is Halloween...costumes filled my day. Putting wings back on, readjusting zippers, hats, helmets, halos and crowns. I am tired!



But it was a beautiful day. The kids were so excited. They love costume day!



I made my costume right there in the classroom, as the children were doing show and tell. As I was there with my kids, I couldn't help but think of the markets in Mexico where the merchants are offer the things needed to prepare for the altar for the Day of the Dead.



In Mexico, this is more than a christian festivity, it is a celebration where the prehispanic culture meets with the catholic religion. This is where the Mexican people kept their ancestral traditions alive.



It is in this tradition where the sorrow of having lost a dear one looses itself in a colorful fiesta filled with delicious aromas and prayers of the faithful.



This festivity is divided in two parts, the first one being All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and the second one being The Day of the Dead (Nov. 2)


On All Saints Day we celebrate the lives of people who lived exemplary lives as well as the lives of children who died young (little angels.) This is a small celebration compared with Novemeber 2. People build altars to the Saints inside churches and many families build altars to thei rdeparted children either at home or at the cementery. The altars are adorned with colorful paper, flowers (marigolds) and they place toys, dolls, candy for their children.



On November 2 many families take flowers to the gravesites, but many others still celebrate the ritual of buiding an altar. The whole family participates and it takes a long time to build. Some of these altars are truly works of art. In some families it is just a very simple altar placed on a table where they put a picture of their deceased relative and it is adorned with flowers and the belongings of the departed one.

The altars built according to the tradition have seven steps that represents the seven levels that the soul has to go through in order to be able to truly rest. This altar is built in a room spacious enough to hold the altar and the whole family. A day before the altar is built the room is swept with aromatic herbs.


This is what the steps contain.




1-The deceased person's favorite Saint or Virgin.


2- This is reserved for the souls in purgatory.


3-This is reserved for the souls of children in purgatory.


4-This is where the family places the "pan de muerto" a special bread made only for this day, adorned with red sugar. it is recomended that the bread is made by the family of the deceased person.


5-This is for the deceased person's favorite food and fruit.


6- This is where the picture of the deceased person goes.


7-This is where the cross of a rosary is made of limes and tejocotes (a yellow fruit like a plum found in Mexico)

The offerings placed at the latar are the following:


Four candles pointing to the four cardinal points. On the side of the altar a pot of clay is placed containing aromatic herbs.


The altar must be decorated with yellow and purple paper reprersenting the union between life and death. "Papel picado" representing the joy of living. (Papel picado is the national art of folding and cutting paper, see picture)

Flowers in white, yellow and purple representing heaven, earth and mourning.

Candles representing the ascension of the soul They also represent light, the guide in the way to heaven.


White cloth representing purity and heaven.



An easter candle representing the soul.



Incense symbolizing the crossing from life to death.


Corn representing the aboundance of the earth.



Fruit representing the gift of nature. It is generally sugar cane, oranges, tejocotes and jicamas.

Sugar skulls (a prehispanic tradition)


Water which gives life and energy for the journey)



The deceased personas favorite dishes.



A crucifix to represent the person's unity with Christ.

A cross made of calcium lime simbolyzing the four cardinal points.


Salt so that the body does not get corrupted.


A way made of marigold petals from the front door of the house to the altar, to guide the soul of the deceased person.



A branch stick to free the person from the demon and evil spirits.



Personal objects belonging to the deceased person.


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This is a colorful tradition in Mexico and in everyplace of the Mexican Republic it is different. If you do a quick search you can find pictures and more information on it.


As a disclaimer: please do not e-mail me to tell me this is the work of the devil. Save yourself some time. This a cultural tradition where people pray and remember their loved ones...

3 comments:

Good Remedy said...

Hello, What a terrific costume! My little one was a ladybug tonight too. I am glad to know she is in good company.

Enjoyed the explanation of the Mexican traditions. Beautiful way to remember loved ones. So much meaning to each piece. Happy All Saints/Souls Weekend!

.ps found your blog from Sr. MaryMartha.

sr betsy said...

Love the costume! I dressed as Raggedy Ann!!

Lisa said...

Hermanita, donde estas? Hace tiempo que no oimos nada de Ud. Espero que todo le vaya bien. Feliz navidad y 2009!!