Saturday, October 10, 2009 the land of the dead

Being particularly close to Mexico, where All Hallows' Eve, All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day are collectively observed as "Los Dias de los Muertos" (The Days of the Dead) I have had the rare opportunity to really experience the event full-on. Being so close to the area that I've easily found so many celebrations right in San Diego, or else bought these nifty little decorations in Old Town and at other great places like Vintage Religion. It's slowly become a bit of a collection. Once upon a time, I was overjoyed to have found a little wooden skeleton in Philadelphia from a South Street specialty shop back in the early 90's. But that was during Halloween season, and content as I was at the time, I lamented that year round they had nothing else. Now come to think of it, compared to the vast array of goodies I have come across around here, I probably shouldn't even mention it.

As a kid, to me the thought of a 1970's or early 80's Halloween spent in the US just seemed to be more widely acceptable. Yeah, so we had waay crappier store-bought costumes than the kind out today. But still, if you were worth your weight in BB bats and Laffy Taffy, you knew if you put the extra effort in and made your own, you could easily spare yourself the embarrassment and escape such ultimate horrors like these. The houses and even entire neighborhoods just were decorated more vibrantly and were more consistently and regularly found on any given street than nowadays. I had mused that this could have been because I was a kid, and maybe I am remembering it all differently, but really? That's bunk, since I'm still such a big kid about Halloween that - that shouldn't effect my judgement. Thus, I've decided it isn't me. Each year Halloween in the US seems to get visibly pared-down and nearly quieted all together.
I am truly fascinated by how the Day of the Dead celebrations are so welcome in Mexico. And the way in which it is traditionally and nationally accepted there as a celebration (as much as say.. the 4th of July is here) really says something about America and the ever-increasing ability to associate immediate fear and revulsion with anything that even remotely mentions or iconic-ally symbolizes death. (Or egads! A Pagan based tradition.) In Mexico, so far as I can tell there is no such fear, only a celebration of respect and a fond remembrance of loved ones past. First and foremost, is a time when families honour and remember the deceased.Lit candles are everywhere. But it is also a time of major partying! Marked by dances and huge festivities, complete with live music, surreal parades of skeletons and ghouls all amid a backdrop of life and bright streaming colour. Every year in CA since about 2001 or so, I've been breaking this little ceramic tray out in October for decorating during El Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. While I was never particularly fond of the crude paint job after firing, the celebratory feeling is certainly illustrated there. And now that I am noticing so many cracks and chips I felt perhaps this year I should be satisfied enough to record a photo of it, just in case. I will as always be celebrating in one way or another.Either by baking, making a full ofrenda, or else if I am really busy? I simply light a few candles for remembering my loved ones and place them on this tray by the side door with some marigolds and a few cookies. (If anyone wants to have me light an extra votive for them just let me know.) As for the 'cookies' either Mr. Wilson or the neighborhood birds get the cookie crumbs by morning. Waste not want not.



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