How the Day of the Dead is all about life
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Despite its name, Día de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) is not a spooky epilogue to Halloween. In fact, the name is exactly the opposite of what one might surmise: the Day of the Dead is a joyful day of festivities, food, and family. The holiday began in the Aztec Empire, when natives celebrating and honoring their deceased loved ones (Moreno). Today, most people associate Día de los Muertos with skeletons, sugar skulls, and the pixar film Coco. While these have all become key characteristics of the Mexican holiday, the true heart of the celebration stems from the desire to honor and remember deceased family members while simultaneously reuniting the entire family.
A common way to celebrate Día de los Muertos is visiting the family gravesite and sharing a meal with the deceased family members as they spend an evening in the land of the living. Many Americans are frightened by the concept of wandering spirits, and assume that the Day of the Dead is an evil holiday celebrated by bizarre people. In reality, Día de los Muertos is a celebration of family, unity, and respect. Even if a person does not believe that the spirits of deceased loved ones come to visit for an evening, that person can still appreciate the gathering and community of the living family members that congregate to remember their ancestors.
I attended an elementary school that focused on different cultures, and we annually celebrated Día de los Muertos. Every year, we would set up altars (or ofrendas) for deceased relatives or even celebrities. For us, Día de los Muertos was less of a day of reunion and more of a day to honor and remember those who had passed before us. In any case, Día de los Muertos is a holiday made to celebrate the lives of loved ones as they continue into the next stage of life.
Some might argue that Christians should avoid anything that has to do with spirits of the dead, but it is possible to respect and even take part the holiday without celebrating the spiritual side. For example, one can use the opportunity to reminisce about their deceased relatives and catch up with their living ones. While some aspects of Día de los Muertos might be culturally unfamiliar to you, remember that this holiday is void of terror, evil, and darkness and is instead filled with joy, love, and remembrance.