Virtual Altar

Day of the Dead is celebrated today, and from the newspaper I bought this morning it appears to be celebrated through the weekend.

I think we are supposed to go to the cemeteries and picnic with our relatives. But, neither Adolfo nor I have any relatives in the local cemeteries. I also don’t have the family photos necessary to build a proper altar, so I decided I would describe my altar here.

If you haven’t seen a Mexican Day of the Dead Altar before, they are very interesting family art projects.

Generally speaking altars are made up of the following items:
Photos of dearly departed friends and family members,
Marigold flowers (also called cempasúchil or, if you’re not practiced up on your Nahuatl, Flor de Muerto)
Candles,
Sugar skulls (sold at every local grocery store, if you go to a market and there is someone with some icing, they will write a name of your choosing across the forehead of the skull, if you like),
Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead),
And then you personalize the altar with things that your friends and relatives liked. You should also consider preparing the food that the dead enjoyed so that they will be more likely to come back and visit with you.

Some altars are more religious and others less so, depending on the family and the relatives, of course.

So, in my altar, there would be pictures of my Grandpa B and a couple golf balls and a hamburger, a picture of my Uncle Tom and a carved wooden duck and perhaps a firecracker (set next to the candles, would provide an appropriate amount of danger for Uncle Tom), a picture of Aunt Helen and Perry and some of that awful candy corn and cherry cordials.

Then you gather with your family and tell stories about the friends and family past and eat Pan de Muertos. In a way, it reminds me of Thanksgiving. I believe there are some public events tomorrow around town, we’ll see if we make it to any of them.

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One Response to “Virtual Altar”

  1. Leah Says:

    An interesting note to go with this celebration: I read recently in the Catholic Missourian that it is very important to visit the cemetery (any cemetery) and pray for the dead Nov. 2-8. During those days if you do so the dead who remain in purgatory receive indulgences. This helps them on their journey to be with God. (This is probably the worst synopsis ever and a good Catholic who knows their stuff would have a stroke.) Anyway, from what I got from the article, you go and pray at the cemetery, then go to communion and confession within two weeks. This helps the souls of the dearly departed on their journey through the afterlife. If you are wondering it does also give a partial indulgence to them at other times of the year also.

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