Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dia De Los Muertos

Halloween the way us gabachos do it is just dumb. For 364 days a year, parents tell their kids not to take candy from strangers. Then on one grand and glorious night, they are to go ask as many strangers as they can for as much candy as they can. Yeesh. I guess the metaphorical idea is that when death comes calling, you better give it something so it'll go away and leave you alone. Kinda like the IRS.

Mexicans do it right. They live a lot closer to death than we do and accept it as part of life instead of being scared shitless of it like we are. Their ghosts and ghoulies don't come out, they come home. Dia De Los Muertos is a family affair. Hit the link. It'll keep ya busy for hours if ya get into it.

Catrinas, one of the most popular figures of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico

They remind me of a coupla ol' gals I useta know, too...

Plans for the festival are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the period of November 1 and November 2, families usually clean and decorate graves;[2] most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas, or offerings, which often include orange marigolds called "cempasúchitl" (originally named cempoalxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty (i.e., many) flowers"). In modern Mexico this name is often replaced with the term "Flor de Muerto" ("Flower of the Dead"). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels), and bottles of tequila, mezcal, pulque or atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of the dead") or sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased.[2] Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the ofrenda food, so even though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value. Pillows and blankets are left out so that the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico, such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives.

That'd get ya arrested most places in this country!

Many other cultures around the world have similar traditions of a day set aside to visit the graves of deceased family members. Often included in these traditions are celebrations, food and beverages, in addition to prayers and remembrances of the departed.

During the Nepali holiday of Gai Jatra ("Cow Pilgrimage"), every family who has lost a family member during the previous year makes a construction of bamboo branches, cloth, paper decorations and portraits of the deceased, called a "gai." Traditionally, a cow leads the spirits of the dead into the next land. Depending on local custom, either an actual live cow, or a construct representing a cow may be used. The festival is also a time to dress up in costume, including costumes involving political comments and satire.

Costumes, political comments, satire, and barnyard animals? Wheeeeee! Now there's a party!

Americans in general are pretty religious, sometimes in very confused and awful ways, but not very spiritual. I think I like the way other cultures do it a lot better.

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