#52SlicesOfChingonaLife #52EssaysNextWave2019 26/52
It’s that time of year, Dia de Los Muertos season is upon us.
Maybe it’s because I was supposed to be born in October, or because I love the Fall season, or because I want very much to see how Mama is doing en el Cielo, but Dia de Los Muertos has become my very favorite holiday and time of the year.
I participated in one of the coolest Dia de Los Muertos celebrations this past weekend where we showed people what an altar/ofrenda is, what is featured along with the meaning behind all of the items on an altar. Everyone has a unique take on an altar, so know that there is no right or wrong way to honor your departed loved ones.
I’m going to feature some of the traditional items one will find on an altar with information on the “why” you see them. Altars/Ofrendas usually feature Flor de Cempasúchil which are Marigolds, or flowers in general, also represent the fragility of life. It is also believed that the smell of Marigolds help lead our departed ones to their altars and to us. Marigolds are native to North and South America, growing particularly well in Mexico and in the wild in the states of México, Puebla, and Veracruz.
It’s believed that Dia de los Muertos stems from an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl whose role was to guard the bones of the dead. The Aztecs considered Marigolds a sacred flower so they bred them to create bigger and more attractive blooms. Aztecs used the sacred flower for decorative and medicinal purposes. The flowers are edible and thought by the Aztecs to cure hiccups and even heal those struck by lightning.
Normally, the Cempasúchil flower is placed on the floor, our Aztec ancestors believed that we have to make a road with the flowers, something like the royal carpet sort of way. We even haven a purple-reddish flower that looks like velvet (velvet flower) for this celebration. This road full of Cempasúchil flowers is made to “light” or “illuminate” the dead person’s way. If any of you have seen “Coco”, you will see how prominent these bright and vibrant orange flowers are to the story.
Their use in these celebrations is believed to be tied to a romantic Aztec origin myth about two lovers, Xótchitl and Huitzilin. According to the legend, the lovers would often hike to the top of a mountain to leave flower offerings for the sun-god Tonatiuh, and to swear their love and commitment to one another. When Huitzilin is tragically killed in battle, a distraught Xóchitl prays to the sun-god to reunite them on earth. Tonatiuh, moved by her prayers and offerings, grants her wish by sending a ray of sun that transforms her into a flower as golden as the sun itself, and reincarnates her lover as a hummingbird. When the Huitzilin the hummingbird approaches Xóchitl the flower with his beak, her twenty petals bloom, filling the air with cempasúchil’s distinctive and powerful scent. (Remezcla, October 2018 online edition).
Many churches all over the world celebrate this tradition: Catholics celebrate “All Saints Day” on November 1st. Anglican, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Reformed churches and others celebrate “All Souls’ Day” on November 2nd, some religions and countries celebrate both.
I really love that el Dia de Los Muertos has soooo much tradition and ritual tied to it — especially as so many of our traditional holidays have become so commercialized. Maybe you think that this holiday is destined for the same fate, however, I do not believe this. We all want to honor our departed loved ones and we all have many unique ways that we honor their memory. There’s no way that these memories can be duplicated, we are all unique. I’d bet that if I asked any of my siblings how they remember and honor our mother, each one of us does it a very different way…this is the beauty of this holiday, no “right” or “wrong” way as I mentioned earlier.
This holiday allowed me to acknowledge my fear of death, my fear of never feeling Mama’s presence again, of never being able to reunite with her. Where I mourned and feared before, I now celebrate my mother’s memory and the hope of seeing her during this beautiful season where we celebrate El Dia de Los Muertos.
I’m going to try and highlight more of this beautiful traditional from now to November 2nd.
Link about Flor de Cempasuchil: https://remezcla.com/features/culture/cempasuchil-dia-de-muertos/