Of remembrance, honoring and gratitude
The Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of remembrance, honoring and gratitude.
It is also a creative way to ridicule our fear of death. The dead are welcomed back into the family fold to eat, drink and rejoice in the family lineage.
The animated Disney film Coco brought the tradition of the Day of the Dead to mainstream audiences around the world. In a charming, gentle way, it invites both children and adults to explore a different relationship with death.
In the movie, the land of dead is a busy, colorful, happy place. The only thing the dead are afraid of is that the last memory of their existence will fade from the living.
This is made poignantly clear in the words of “Remember Me,” the film's signature song.
Remember me Though I have to say goodbye Remember me Don't let it make you cry For ever if I'm far away I hold you in my heart I sing a secret song to you Each night we are apart Remember me
The story of Coco is a great teacher in this time of so much death and grief. It teaches us that:
Grief doesn’t have a specific timeline.
Memories can bring both joy and grief.
A relationship doesn’t have to end when someone dies.
Death is a part of life. Fearing it drains your resilience.
I invite you to step into a celebration of Dia de los Muertos from October 31 to November 2. You’ll find that this annual ritual will enhance your connection to your own life as well as to those who came before.
Begin by creating an ofrenda, an altar for the dead. A traditional ofrenda has multiple levels with an arch above or a decorative backboard. But, small altars are perfectly acceptable.
Decide which ancestors, friends or animals you wish to honor on your altar. A photograph of the departed may serve as a focal point. You can honor several beloveds on one altar.
Traditional objects on a ofrenda might include:
Candle – fire is one of the four elements of nature
Earth – in gratitude to our current home
Glass of water, soap & towel – to refresh the spirits after their journey
Copal – to welcome and guide the visiting spirits
Papel Picados – banners flutter in the breeze to represent wind
Salt – to purify the air
Flowers – marigolds and other fall ornamentals
Food – the beloved’s favorites, fruit and loaves of bread
Beverages – a favorite beer, tequila, coffee or tea
Personal Objects – clothing, jewelry or mementoes
Skeletons – traditional sugar skulls or other folk art
Small Dog – believed to be companions for the dead
Once your altar is created share photos with your family and friends. Gather in person or virtually to share stories of the relationships that give your life meaning. Invite your dead relations to visit you in dreamtime.