November 2, 2010

But not forgotten

Today is el dia de los muertos – the Day of the Dead.

Yesterday was All Saints Day, the day the Catholic church celebrates the beatified.  Today is All Souls Day, which celebrates everybody else.

El dia de los muertos is dedicated to the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl – she keeps watch over the bones of the dead and is known as the Lady of the Dead.  To help her out, families go to the cemetery with offerings of food and drink for the deceased and often picnic on the spot, sharing the day with their ancestors.

Veneration of ancestors is common to most religions and cultures.  In China, it is the Ghost Festival, which falls at the end of the summer, in Japan it is the Obon festival in mid-summer, when after a day of celebration, the spirits return to the underworld via candle-lit lanterns floated on water.  In Poland, Zaduszki is celebrated by visiting cemeteries at night and lighting candles.  In Brittany, graves are visited and milk libations are poured over headstones, while at home supper is left on the table to feed the dead.

Almost every celebration in every culture involves food offerings, which on the face of it seems illogical, but it is a  very old tradition that there is no more precious gift than shared food.  While we tend to associate ancestor worship with Asian cultures, it really is universal, except in North America, where Canadians and Americans are too young to have developed their own traditions and must rely on imports.

Polish zaduszki celebration


  1. Very cool…feliz dia de los muertos! 😉


    Comment by Nina — November 2, 2010 @ 1:31 am | Reply

  2. No comment!


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — November 2, 2010 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  3. I’ve washed my offering dish clean of saurkraut, packed away my altar, yet, I see it there on my counter showing me who I am. For this minute, at least.


    Comment by Carol — November 3, 2010 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  4. oooo – good post! Me gusta el dia de los muertos, it’s my little brother’s birthday! =)


    Comment by the Miguel A. Juárez — November 6, 2010 @ 1:01 am | Reply

  5. Oh & I love the bride & groom skull pic!


    Comment by the Miguel A. Juárez — November 6, 2010 @ 1:06 am | Reply

  6. oh yes – feliz cumpleanos, josh!


    Comment by jchatoff — November 6, 2010 @ 1:10 am | Reply

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