Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dia de los Muertos, San Diego Style

The Day of the Dead is such a great celebration. Not only is it in remembrance of those who have gone before us, but it is combined with some of the spooky elements of Halloween and the cultural flare of Mexico. Seriously, who wouldn't love celebrating with skeletons, sugar, and reverent altars? 

For those of you who don't know, el Dia de los Muertos started 3,000 years ago when Mayan and Aztec Indians displayed skulls to show their feelings on life and death. To the Aztecs, life was a dream and death was waking up. When the Spaniards arrived in Central and South America, Catholic and Native customs were combined into el Dia de los Muertos. 

On the Day of the Dead, families create special altars for their departed loved ones, which become living scrapbooks with pictures of the deceased, flowers, and their favorite foods. These foods and offerings are placed for the deceased to enjoy, and are said to have lost their flavor because the ghosts have sucked it all out. At the Day of the Dead celebrations in San Diego, they had more than 40 public altars all around Old Town that displayed pictures of people who, from what we could tell, had mostly passed away in 2014.

We even found this tribute to Robin Williams among the altar in the cemetery. It is really interesting how this holiday is celebrated. If we put skeletons and food on graves on Memorial Day, I think a lot of people would be offended, but it is a beautiful tradition in Latin America that helps them honor their families.

Another element to the Day of the Dead are sugar skulls. Sugar art was brought to the Americas by Italian missionaries. Since Mexicans could not afford to buy expensive European decorations, they started creating their own sugar skulls as a representation of departed souls. In Old Town, there were booths set up where you could decorate your own sugar skull. It was a lot of hard work. I'm not super creative, so I felt like this totally maxed me out for the day.

All over Old Town there were skeletons and skulls used as decoration. There were live performances by people in skeleton suits and even some mariachi bands playing. For a little bit, I actually felt like I was back in Mexico. Actually, for a long part of the day I whined about how much I wanted to go back. :) Ha ha! Maybe soon we will make a trip down to Tijuana to do some Christmas shopping.

This day was exceptional. We are so lucky to be in San Diego, and enjoy November 1 outside with such rich Mexican traditions. I just hope that people here do not keep the tradition of noisy Christmas and New Years like they do in Mexico, 'cause I value my beauty rest. :)

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