Day of the Dead

As the days of October dwindle, thoughts here in the US turn to Halloween.

Sorry, Edgar!

Once upon a midnight dreary
(With all apologies to Mr. Poe)
Dad’s ticked off and Mom’s exhausted
Gremlins whine and goblins moan.

Dressed in costumes and filled with glee
They spent the evening on the streets
Ringing doorbells and striking poses
Then, laughing gaily, they begged for sweets.

Now at midnight, the laughing’s over
And little tummies are filled with pain
“You ate too much candy,” Mama told them
“Bet you won’t do that again.”

But Mama’s wrong, ’cause next October
As children do, they’ll Trick-or-Treat
They’ll ring the doorbells and beg for candy
And a goodly portion they will eat.

Then once again, on a midnight dreary
(Still apologizing to Poe)
Little tummies will ache in protest
It’s Halloween and so it goes.

If you live on a neighborhood Trick-or-Treat route, you may be buying candy and planning ways to transform your front yard into a spooky cemetery, complete with moans drifting into the night.

You may be whipping up little costumes, creating your own ghosts, Shreks or Jack Sparrows. Or maybe you’re sewing a big costume for yourself, though my favorite costume ever required no sewing at all.  And it did wonders for my figure.

Perhaps you’re planning a party, digging out your recipes for Buffalo Bat Wings, The Devil’s Deviled Eggs, Yummy Mummy Baked Brie, Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Cake and Witch’s Brew Punch.

Or you may be one of my talented blogging buddies composing the perfect Halloween poem or a scare-the-pants-off-everyone story.

Like some who will read this, I was raised in the Catholic Church, and every year we were reminded by the nuns that the history of Halloween was rooted in All Hallow’s Eve or Hallowmas, the night before All Saint’s Day (11/1).   Of course, what they didn’t mention was that it was the Celtic pagans who first donned costumes and made offerings of food (treats) to appease the souls of the dead who came out on Samhain so they wouldn’t wreak havoc (tricks) upon the still living.

This year, though, my imagination has been caught by a different celebration, El Dia de Los Muertos.  As someone from  Mexico or with a Mexican heritage will tell you, Day of the Dead is not the same as Halloween.  Instead, it is a holiday when the living remember their deceased loved ones, and celebrate their lives.  And it truly is a celebration.  In many Mexican towns, there is a festival that lasts two days.  On November 1, legend has it that the souls of the children come out, and the celebration strikes a more playful note in their honor.  On November 2, the souls of deceased adults are honored.

Celebrants make colorful altars commemorating the deceased.  People of all ages take to the streets dressed in wonderful costumes, often with faces painted like a skull.  Food is plentiful, and music accompanies everything.  One celebrant said in an interview, “We don’t believe that death is the end.  It’s just another step in the journey. When we die, we are simply moving on.”

In celebrating death, they are celebrating life, and in the process, keeping a culture alive as well.

I have attached a video about El Dia de Los Muertos.  I have to warn you.  It is a very long video, a movie really, with its length of an hour and 30 minutes.  Yeah, I know. But if you can make the time, it is so well worth it.  It is a cultural, historical, visual and musical delight, a feast for the senses.  The last half of the video is all music, a wonderful concert performed for a Day of the Dead festival in California a few years ago.  As you watch and listen, your feet, indeed your whole body, will celebrate right along with the performers, reminding you that you are still very much alive.

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16 Responses to Day of the Dead

  1. Fun poem and fascinating article. I loved your photo of the colorful day of the dead figure – she looks so cheerful!

    • PattiKen says:

      Cheerful. Exactly. The day of the dead celebration has its moments of solemnity, of course, but so much of what I saw in all the stuff I looked at was cheerful, and even joyful. The video is a wonderful documentary about it all.

  2. Jamie Dedes says:

    Oh, this looks like fun. Have to come back and read it when there’s time.

    Meanwhile, I’m doing my nominations for Thursday Poets Rally. Did you enter a poem? I don’t remember seeing it and can’t find it. Let me know. Thanks.

    • PattiKen says:

      Hi, Jamie. No, I don’t participate in Poets Rally. It’s a bit too overwhelming for me. I have enough trouble keeping up with everything else.

      • Jamie Dedes says:

        Finally got to break free for a much need Patti-fix. This is delightful. You done Edgar good!

        I love, love, love Dia de los Muertos. I’m glad you put it out there.

        Hope you had a pleasant Halloween. Now we have to get ready for Thanksgiving. Are you cooking? Wear your apron. LOL!

  3. souldipper says:

    Aren’t you having fun with this post. Thanks for the research and insights. I’ve been aware of The Day of the Dead, but this brings a much clearer understanding. (eg – I didn’t know that the children and adults were on two different days. I just thought it was an extended celebration.)

    • PattiKen says:

      I’m glad you like it, Amy. If you have the time, I highly recommend the video. It’s very long, but worth the time. I wasn’t going to watch it when I saw how long it was, but once I started… It is very well done. There was something about it that made me feel good. And I learned a lot.

  4. buttercup600 says:

    I will come back and listen to this also…thanks for sharing Patti, am looking forward to listen to all the detail 🙂 Much love my friend xoxo

  5. JeffScape says:

    You’re probably not into video games, but there’s this wonderful LucasArts game from about 10 years ago called Grim Fandango, and it delves deep into the mythology of El Dia de Los Muertos. It’s HILARIOUS and quite informative.

    Given the subject matter, you might enjoy it.

    • PattiKen says:

      I can see how the whole mystique and mythology around the tradition would lend itself to a video game. Plus, it’s a very visual event, which would make the graphic artists very happy.

  6. moondustwriter says:

    we live in an area with lots of Latinos – so the dia del los muertos is widely celebrated

    nicely done my friend. Halloween has multi-cultural implications

    now dont eat too much candy


    • PattiKen says:

      The El Dia de Los Muertos festival featured in the documentary I posted takes place in California. Were I in the neighborhood, I would be there.

      You’re right about the multicultural importance of Halloween. It’s so interesting to see how different cultures view death. For some, it’s all about fear and and the occult. For others it’s filled with joy and celebration. Fascinating.

  7. tracyhsays says:

    Great poem, Patti, I don’t think Edgar minds at all 🙂 , and thanks for the entertaining information too. Happy Halloween!

  8. suzicate says:

    Cute poem (I’m sure Poe would be honored!), and I like the history of Halloween you posted afterward.

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