I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
is the final day to celebrate the Day of the Dead – a time to honor and
celebrate loved ones who have died. The holiday is held November 1st
and 2nd throughout Central and Southern Mexico. According to Mexican
tradition, the gates of heaven open at midnight October 31st and all
of the children who have died come back to visit their families. On November 2nd,
adults who have departed are also able to return to earth for a short visit
with loved ones… a true celebration of life and death.
and Mayan cultures have celebrated Day of the Dead for thousands of years.
Mourning the dead was considered disrespectful so a party was thrown each
year to remember and honor those who had died. Instead of two days, those
celebrations lasted for an entire month and offerings were made to
Mictecacihuatl, the Queen of the Dead.
A Family Alter
are the centerpieces of the festivities. They are erected in homes and
cemeteries and decorated with flowers. (Marigolds are the most popular because they
are said to attract the dead.) Fruits and a candle for each deceased family
member along with photos are included. An array of food is prepared, maybe a loved one’s favorite meal,
pan de muerto (bread of the dead), and water waiting to welcome visiting
spirits back home. Special gifts like candies and toys are left for the
children’s spirits while adults are offered cigarettes and alcoholic beverages.
Families honor their
loved ones to the best of their abilities so only the best food and drinks are
Cleaning the Graves
2nd is a social day in the local village. It's the day families
travel to the cemetery to clean and decorate their loved ones graves, visit
with neighbors, and remember those who have passed with stories and humor. Sugar
skulls, a regional candy made of sugar cane and decorated elaborately, are
believed to be “absorbed” by the visiting souls. The local band provides music
for the event.
Calavera Catrina is a symbol of the day. This female skeleton was created by
Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1910 and dressed in the styles of 1900 including a large brimmed black hat. Men dress in fancy suits,
and everyone paints their faces to resemble colorful skulls. The costumes are
also a reminder that we are all the same under the skin. Singing, dancing and
parades are held as part of the celebration. Noisemakers are used to “wake up
the dead” and keep them involved in the celebration. When the party is over,
the dog Xoloitzcuintli is said to assist in guiding the souls back to heaven.
of the Dead celebrations are held in Latin American countries, Spain and the
United States. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed Day of the Dead as an Intangible Cultural
Heritage of Humanity in 2008. Sugar skulls are popular with children, and parades of costumed
revelers are always anticipated. Although the holiday is fun and festive, it is
meant to honor loved ones who have died, and to celebrate life, and
death – something we all will eventually have in common with each other.