Our RV Camp was right next to this cemetery, one of the oldest in the nation! At first thought, we were all a little freaked out. Once we learned about these 'good spirits' and their good intentions, we felt quite at home.
The Spaniards learned that when they arrived in central Mexico in the 16th century. They viewed the ritual, which was started by the Aztecs some 3,000 years ago, as sacrilegious. But the 'festival' couldn't be quashed.
Not only did it survive, it thrived, moving from southern Mexico and spreading north. It also merged with elements of Christianity. Originally celebrated in the summer, it moved to Nov. 1 and 2 to coincide with All Saints Days and All Souls Day.
Part of the tradition in Mexico is to not be scared of death but to smile at it. It’s a celebration of their ancestors as they were when they were on this earth, alive. The act of death and then celebrating those who are gone is never a sad thing or a scary thing in this culture.
One of the shop owners in town has a beautiful display of 'Dia de Los Muertos'. She told us how, on this holiday, her community visits the cemetery where their relatives are buried. It's a happy event and full of memorable rituals celebrating their family members.
They start with cleaning the tombs, making them look as good as new. Then they paint their faces, put on traditional wears and enjoy the live music, tequila, and food, lots of food! She continued to tell us the black horses in the villages are painted to have skeleton bones on them - the black dogs too!
My kids appreciate this celebration, and now connect their Uncle Andy's annual event along with such tradition. It fulfills us when we memorialize those who have gone before us. It heals us to keep their memory alive. It calms us to know that while death is inevitable, there is much more waiting for us in the after life!