El Día de los Muertos, El Día de los Difuntos
Yesterday, as I was talking with someone I love about a Halloween greeting I had received from a Guatemalan friend, she said, "But don't they celebrate the day of death or whatever?" It wasn't just the mistaken name, but the tone with which she said it, that made me cringe. What I heard was her refusal to respect what she didn't understand. What I understood was that, to her, the blending of pre-Columbian and Catholic traditions had produced something sinister rather than something sacred.
I remember learning about the Day of the Dead in Spanish class in high school. What I didn't get out of it was the beauty of the day's intent. I remember candy and skeletons. I remember it as the "Mexican halloween." I never even saw a Day of the Dead altar until I saw this one:
All by herself, Luis' grandmother lovingly placed food, dishes, flowers, and candles in memory of her departed husband. He was on her mind as she worked. Less like Halloween and more like Memorial Day, the Day of the Dead is for remembering those who have died. Families gather and celebrate the rememberance of their beloved departed. The belief is that their spirits return to earth to visit the living on that day, so they are welcomed with their favorite foods, their way lighted by candles.
It is a hallowed day.