Today is the last celebration day of Day Of The Dead, or Dia De Los Muertos. This is an annual Mexican holiday in which friends and family gather to celebrate the memories of those who have died, and it usually occurs after Halloween, taking up the first and second days of November. Families will gather at cemeteries with homemade altars that have sweets (usually sugar skulls), marigolds, and favorite foods and beverages of the departed. They believe that during this time, it's easier for the dead to hear the prayers of the living, and hope to encourage visits by the departed, in order that they may hear the prayers and remembrances of their loved ones.
We of European descent celebrate these as well. They are called All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and it's not unusual for some of us to take off work and go to the cemetery with candles and flowers for those we remember. Some even give their children gifts and sweets on this day.
I suppose that for the past few weeks now, I've been doing some of this myself. A friend of mine died recently, and some other friends and I have been cleaning out her house for her brother, who lives in Philadelphia. During that time as we sorted things and cleaned and straightened, we remembered her and talked about things she did and enjoyed. We didn't build an altar or anything, but we remembered our friend.
I look at these things that others do to remember their dead, and I think of all the times we've seen people speak out against Halloween, showing us its pagan origins, telling us it's a demon's holiday, and so on. I can't deny that the season has a shadowed past, but I also can't deny that sometimes we need to have wonder and mystery in our lives. We need a taste, if only a taste, of ghosts and monsters, of horror and death, to remind us that life is fleeting and that it can be done with before we know it, to remind us of what true evil is. Sometimes evil happens not because someone makes a deal with the devil or because someone builds a monster in a castle laboratory, but because people don't remember.
My departed friend sent me cards with a message every year for most major holidays, including Halloween. She also sent me a message in her death, which was to try to remember. Not just the bad things, but the good things too. I hope that in the future, I can do a better job of this. I will try.
In pace requiescat.
For the memory of Barbara Miles. Memento mori.