Today, on The Day of The Dead, We Honor, Remember, and Celebrate our Ancestors—
These days, Día de los Muertos is best known as a Mexican holiday, but it is actually a syncretic holiday, one celebrated by many cultures and belief systems, whose most ancient origins can be traced back several millennia to long before the Spanish invaded the area. On these days, families welcome the souls and spirits of their ancestors to an elaborate reunion that includes, luscious foods, libation, costumes, decorations, and festivities. A blend of Meso-american ritual, European religion, and Spanish culture, the holiday is celebrated each year from October 31- November 2. These celebrations span from November 1 is “el Día de los Inocentes,” or the day of the children, and All Saints Day. November 2 is All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead.
While many different Indigenous Peoples of Central and South America, both ancient and present, have celebrated some form of ancestor worship and honoring of the dead, they all share a common thread—a belief in the afterlife.
There is an undeniable faith that when loved ones die, they don't cease to exist — instead, their soul carries on to the afterworld. In their societies, belief in the cyclical nature of life and death has resulted in a celebration of death, rather than a fear of death.
Death is simply a continuation of life, just on another plane of existence. Their loved ones do not die, they simply develop a new intimate relationship with their ancestors.
These beliefs continue on today in the celebration of The Day of the Dead (Día de Los Muertos) and All Saints Day in many parts of America and Latin America. In fact, all cultures since the beginning of time have honored their deceased with rites and customs that are as diverse as they are fascinating.
Ancestor worship or honoring celebrations for the dead are very important because the belief is that a discontented spirit can return to haunt the family and bring bad luck, while happy spirits will provide protection, good luck, and wisdom to their families.
Part of this sacred tradition is the erection of elaborate Ofrenda or alter building which is thought to keep the family close. These Ofrendas become the centerpiece for celebration, prayer, honoring, stories about the dead, family gatherings at the cemetery, in their homes, or local churches. These alters are beautiful, sacred, and healing.
Day of the Dead continues to become more and more popular in the West, perhaps because we have lost touch with most of our ancestral traditions that celebrate and honor our dead, or perhaps because of our fascination with its sanctity and the innate human understanding of the sacred nature of Death.
I invite you to take a moment to bring the bones of your ancestors into your heart as they live on within your bones.
What are some of your rites and rituals that facilitates you honoring, remembering, and celebrating your ancestors?
With love from my heart to yours,