A Feast Fit For A Ghost

A Feast Fit For A Ghost

By June Nay Summers


dia de muertos2016

On November 1st, All Saints Day is celebrated by the Catholic and Angelican Church to glorify all the saints, known and unknown. On the 2nd of November, All Souls Day is the day for welcoming back all departed souls. The mass is a Requiem for the repose of departed souls and of solemn supplication for all souls in Purgatory.

In Mexico, however, there is a different scenario. Here, the custom of welcoming departed souls dates back to long before the Church came to Mexico. It is a time for remembering roots and a time for fiestas. The children are included, and thus become familiar with death at an early age.

Religious and primitive customs combine to form unique and traditional holidays. When the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs, they found a pagan culture that honored its dead in commemorations which sometimes lasted for months. The Spaniards and the Franciscan missionaries took the Indian customs and worked them into their own observances.

The trappings are Catholic, but the idea that a dead person returns to enjoy a feast is very Indian. All Saints Day becomes Los Angelitos, (the angel children) and All Souls Day becomes the Day of the Dead.

Preparations begin late in October, as graves are weeded, cleaned and decorated. Pantheons are blessed. Afterward, a fiesta is held, as relatives and friends picnic at the gravesite. There are balloons and candy for the children. Sometimes all-night vigils are held at the cemetery, as candles burn on the decorated graves and the dead person’s favorite food is laid out.

On the day of Los Angelitos, a trail of flower petals is scattered from the cemetery back to the front door of the house, so as to guide the child spirits back to their former homes.

The Day of the Dead is observed by all Indians and campesinos. The emphasis is on feeding the spirits of departed family members. Mexicans like to look death in the eye. “We don’t fear death,” says one Mexican anthropologist. “It is something we joke about, which we eat with, which our children play with. That way we become familiar with death. The way of death is our way of life.”


For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

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