Altar to the Ancestors


 While in the U.S., death can evoke fear and avoidance, in Mexico  Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is  a grand annual celebration on November 1st and 2nd. Skeletons are everywhere: sculptures, paper cuts outs, and sugar skulls painted in vibrant colors.

¬†I have witnessed many traditional observances.¬† One year¬†in Ajijic,¬†my friend, Janice and I¬† were amazed at the colorful procession from the plaza to the cemetary. We walked past shops and homes…nearly all displayed some sort of colorful altar, tenderly created, ¬†in rememberance of departed loved ones. The year was 2001. One gallery owner had hung streamer-like ticker tape with the names of all those who died on September 11. It was deeply moving.

When we finally reached the cemetary, it was standing room only! Locals were seated around the family graves feasting on the food and drink their loved ones had enjoyed. There was exuberant singing as guitars played favorite songs of the departed. Some even danced around the graves as fireworks lit up the sky.

Another year in the charming town of Tlaquepaque, near Guadalajara, there was a grand competition for the best altar which was held in classrooms and auditorium of a downtown school. The young people went all out. It was a magnificent sight!

You might want to remember your ancestors in similar¬† ways.¬† Create an “altar” out of a box or on a shelf, covering it with a fabric or scarf. You’ll notice marigolds in the picture above. Since they have a pungent smell, they are used so the ancestors can find their way home. A prepared plate of favorite foods, say enchiladas, a bottle of tequila or cerveza, photographs, and other mementos are commonly displayed on the altars. The spirits of the ancestors really come alive . Who will you honor on this ¬†Day of the Dead?

Visit www.connieclarkjoyworks.com/retreats to learn about “Spa for the Spirit” retreats in Mexico (and the U.S.)


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