In some ways these dates are similar to our Halloween but in other ways they are very different.
The Mexicans embrace death not with a solemn face and a heavy heart but instead they stage a lavish fiesta on the Day of the Dead embracing death with a smile, bravado and a healthy dose of irony.
November 1st is the date devoted to remembering Angelitos or the “little angels” who died in infancy. November 2nd celebrates all those who have passed on at a riper age. The usual quiet at local graveyards is already evaporating as people labor at refurbishing family burial plots. Once repairs and gardening tasks are finished, they decorate the tombs with memorial coronas (wreaths) and cruces (crosses) embellished with the religious images and artifical flowers, fresh floral arrangements and votive candles.
Children’s graves are often adorned with tiny wreaths fashioned in pastel tones, gaily coloured crepe paper streamers, balloons, offerings of sweets and toys and vigil lights.
Family outings to the caposanto (holy round) on November 1st and 2nd may extend through an entire day, in some cases overnight, as relatives and friends cluster around the gravesites to relive fond memories, mourn again and celebrate in honor of the cherished muertitos who rest six feet under. They’ll bring along plenty of food and drink to keep them going, adding live music or boom box tunes to enhance the ambiance.
Anything that might be missing can be bought from street vendors set up for business just outside the cemetery gates. Their booths are stocked with all the holiday essentials of cempazuchitl (marigolds), barra de obispo (cocksomb), nube (baby’s breath) and other fresh flowers, cruces and coronas, cool drinks, seasonal fruits and typical Day of the Dead culinary trests such as pan de muerto (dead man’s bread), calabaza en tacha (pumpkin slices stewed in brown sugar syrup) and grinning calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls).
The arrival of the padre and his entourage lends the opportunity for spiritual reflection.
Lakeside communities also mark the Days of the Dead with an array of public events derived from customs that have emerged and evolved from ancient times allowing the expat residents and visitors the opportunity to imerse themselves in the warm Mexican culture and colorful traditions.
Check Page 11 of this weeks Guadalajara Reporter for times and places of these various events which you will certainly enjoy.
On October 31st you will find that Mexican children have happily adopted our custom of trick or treating and you can expect them to knock at your door wanting candy. Just a heads up this procession can start at early at 4:00 pm so stock up and carve and light your pumpkins.
Also tonight October 27th is the night you should turn your clocks back one hour as Daylight Savings Times ends Sunday, October 28th at 2:00 am.