As we head into a Saturday of celebration at the Library, the Library’s Community Outreach Bilingual Librarian, Angelique, shares her perspective on the rituals of remembrance.
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Día de los muertos (Day of the Dead) to me signifies community, coming together and remembering our loved ones that have died. One may not associate celebration with loss but when it comes to grief it goes hand in hand. I recently saw a post from someone newly experiencing the death of a loved one; “people tend to believe that grief shrinks over time, what really happens is that we grow around our grief.” Those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one want them to be remembered. As we enter the holiday season, and throughout the year, birthdays and anniversaries arrive, there are mixed emotions on how to move through these big days. Everyone deals with loss differently and there is no timeline or one way to live with the loss.
A yearly tradition that happens at the Lafayette Public Library is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I find great solace in creating space for remembering and sharing pictures and memories of family, friends, and colleagues that have died. I enjoy the ritual of gathering pictures, items that belonged to the person, a favorite food or drink. All of this is time I am thinking of this person I loved, which brings me joy. It also is healing to share stories about family and friends. I feel close to them and the most important, they are not forgotten.
Day of the Dead is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2, primarily in Mexico but other central American countries celebrate it as well. Historically speaking, Día de los muertos can be traced back to the Aztecs who observed it for a full month from the end of July to beginning of August according to the Aztec calendar. The goddess Mictecacihuatl oversaw the celebration. She was considered the god of the dead, and also the ruler of the lowest level of the underworld, or Mictlān. It is now known as All Saint’s Day. The Spanish priests, in the post-conquest era, wanted to have it coincide with the Christian holiday, All Hallows Eve. Whether you observe this as a religious celebration or just to honor ancestors and loved ones; it is the coming together, to remember and be together that brings comfort.
Altars, or ofrendas are built for the returning souls of our loved ones so that the living and the dead can come together once a year. Families visit cemeteries; spend time cleaning and decorating with marigolds, traditional food such Pan de Muerto, or food and drink the deceased enjoyed, as well as candy skulls. It is believed that the scent of the marigolds helps to guide the soul’s home. Along with marigolds, you will see butterflies or hummingbirds. Aztecs believed in that in the afterlife, the spirits of the dead would return as a monarch butterfly or hummingbird.
All are welcome to participate in a way that calls to them; whether it is adding a name to the Tree of Remembrance in the Library lobby, creating a mini diorama (nicho) with your loved one’s picture, or coming together as a family or with a local organization to create a traditional altar or ofrenda. There will be a Celebration on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 10:30am-2pm with Storytime, sugar skull crafts, facepainting, and music from Mariachi Alma del Folklore. Please join us to visit the ofrendas on display or add a picture of your loved one.
To learn more about Day of the Dead, check out these books in the Library catalog.