Day of the Dead © Aris Dervis 2007 Dia de las Muertes, spirits of the ancestors, altars

© Aris Dervis 2007

Day of the Dead

November 2nd

The Day of the Dead, or El Dia de Los Muertos is actually a 3-day series (October 31, November 1st and 2nd) of events designed to honor and commemorate our departed loved ones. In Mexico, people travel to cemeteries and lay out elaborate picnics and offerings for the deceased. They keep a candlelight vigil all night, but it is not necessarily a somber affair. Death is seen as a natural part of life in Mexico and the opportunity to reunite with the dead for even a brief period of time is seen as a positive thing.

When I was growing up fully entrenched in the Roman Catholic system, All Souls Day (November 2nd) was the day when you could actually liberate a soul from purgatory by attending three Masses. Even the speediest parish priest couldn't crank a Mass out in less than 30 minutes, so at least 90 minutes was dedicated to the heroic act of freeing that soul from its suffering. It made for a particularly gloomy birthday for me.

I much prefer the more festive Mexican approach and this year I built my own altar for the dead. I thought it was beautiful with the candles and the marigolds and the Pan de los Muertos, candy, beer, rum, concord grapes, enchilada sauce, posole, dog biscuits, sweet potato pie for my New Orleans Spirits and mariachi music. I had displayed portraits of 40 people, ranging from my Ancestors to the Ricardos and Mertzes.

I roasted a turkey and bought a bottle of tequila, and we all had a grand old time. It is believed that the time between Samhain (Halloween) and the Day of the Dead is when the veil between the two worlds is thinnest and communication is easy. I like to think that the Spirits were pleased with my efforts. It certainly felt like they were.

Day of the Dead is available as a 8x10 print, candle, t-shirt and greeting card.