Here's Why Everyone Should Celebrate Day of the Dead
All cultures and all people should consider celebrating their loved ones who have passed on. This is something that has been done in the Mexican culture for thousands of years. Everybody can learn something from this beautiful tradition.
Everything I know about Día de los Muertos I learned while living in Mexico.
In Oaxaca and Michoacán, two states with deeply rooted Muertos traditions, I saw how lifelong practitioners dressed their ofrenda altars with precise additions according to the fancies of the departed person being honored: a plate of mole, just so; a specific reposado tequila, served neat; a certain brand of those tiny filterless cigarettes that are still sold down south. Everything had meaning, and a place in the spiritual order of the altar itself.
In the unending hustle of Mexico City, in the darkest days of the post-2008 global recession, neighbors in my downtown apartment building would gather around one another’s ofrendas and share warm chocolate and pan de muerto, or bread of the dead. Sometimes we’d carouse around the neighborhood cemeteries, drinking and partying, as Day of the Dead, in its traditional iteration, can also encourage mischief.
I began building my own ofrendas, first to family members and ancestors, then to friends and finally to people whom I greatly admired, like the California writer Michele Serros, or David Bowie. Day of the Dead always felt like a welcoming custom, one that anyone can participate in. After all, who doesn’t want a reason to focus fond thoughts on a lost loved one? Who doesn’t need a day to contemplate what awaits us all?