By Angel Nuñez
Throughout Mexico, Central America and most parts of Belize we celebrate Dia de los Muertos or All Souls Day. It is a family, social, religious and cultural celebration and it coincides right after Halloween. November 1st Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in honor of the children who have passed away and November 2nd is celebrated to honor the adults who have been laid to their eternal rest. So, is this a regular dance party with lots of food and drinks galore like we have for Halloween and so many other celebrations?
Not quite so! This is how this celebration goes. Days before the celebrated day, the village or town folks go to the cemetery to give it a thorough cleanup and paint the tombs. For November 1st mom first bakes a large batch of sweet bread known as Pan de Muertos or Cross Buns. It is sweet bread with a cross marked on it. This bread is put on the home altar which is arranged with candles, flowers, images or small statues of saints, and a cup of any pop drink. At midday, the family prays a rosary for the repose of the soul of the beloved deceased, and then the family goes to the cemetery to lay flowers or wreaths on the tombs.
The same thing happens on November 2nd except that this time around the family eats together a fine meal usually of relleno negro, chirmole, escabeche, mechado, or tamales and of course the popular dessert of Maja Blanco. It is a general practice to prepare the meal that used to be the favorite of the beloved deceased. The custom is to send a plate of food to all the other relatives in the family. This food is considered very special, even holy, and all relatives are expected to offer some prayers in honor of the beloved departed. If the deceased smoked or took his drinks, a shot of tequila and a cigarette would also be placed on the altar. The main part of the celebration is to go to the cemetery as a united family and lay flowers on the tombs and say a few prayers. There is hugging and kissing and of course some crying by those who tend to be sentimental or emotional, but in the end it is all a very happy occasion when relatives travel from abroad or far away to be re-united with the family.
Dia de los Muertos is a day to remember the beloved departed. While some persons concentrate on the prayers, others concentrate on the food. This was the time dad butchered the hog and mom killed the garden chickens for the special dishes. There is no dancing, but there is a lot of merrymaking and tremendous happiness. It is certainly not a day for crying, but some people certainly do. This is one tradition that comes from twenty five years ago and still practiced today. Happy Dia de los Muertos to all families, and may all beloved deceased rest in peace.
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