Every year I set an Ofrenda for my granny and my father-in-law to receive them on this date. This year was very special. My husband actually poured the coffee and tea for them. It was so lovely to feel that he not only respects this tradition but also joins it. I was touched.
Dia de Muertos
“Dia de Muertos” (Day of the Dead) is a tradition that I would say most Mexicans are proud of and follow every year. On 1st and 2nd November each year, we set offerings to our passed beloved people. We put their photos, water, food, candles, flowers, salt and things they used to like such as alcohol, cigarettes or toys. We also burn copal incense.
Some people go to the cemeteries and have a welcoming party for the dead people, with food, music, candle lights and the spend all night there remembering and praying. I have never done this, I suppose my family was never very either religious or traditional to do so. We started putting an altar when my granny passed away, and now the offering at my mum’s house includes my granny’s family photo (great grandad, great grandmom, granny and grandaunt)
Coco, the movie
I was talking about this tradition at a Spanish Language class last week and apart from a strange comment from one person that thinks it is a spooky thing almost witchery. I had plenty of nice and positive feedback, especially after most of them watched the movie, Coco. So they “knew” what was I talking about. Wink! Don’t get me wrong. I love the movie. I think it is a very accurate representation of Dia de Muertos celebration but honestly, I think you have to be there to actually perceive what it means. The smells, the vibrant colours, the food, the music, the warmth in your heart when you talk to your missed and still loved family members (or friends).
Setting an ofrenda in NI
I have half the experience here but I do what I can. It has been impossible to get the right variety of marigold, Cempasuchil. So I made my very own paper flowers with crepe paper. It is not too bad. I managed to get copal incense!
This year I attempted to make “pan de muerto” the lazy way… I got a bread machine from a very dear friend. If only I looked for the instructions… I left the bread to make in the machine, next thing I had a loaf of pan de muerto! I can’t complain. It was a very tasty loaf. The flavour was very accurate. I meant to make another one, this time with the right round shape with bones and skull. As it should be. But my son decided he needed my attention so I didn’t get into the kitchen till dinner time. Actually, I meant to make so many things like sugar skulls and calabaza en tacha (pumpkin dessert). Not enough time!
I showed my son the ofrenda and talked to him about what represents. He is still too young to understand but I hope he will feel this tradition and make it his own.
If you ever have the chance to visit Mexico, do your best to go and see the real celebration of Dia de Muertos. Otherwise, look for Mexicans in your local area and let them show you this tradition.