The Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of pumpkins with lit candles surrounding them on Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life Infertility Blog on Not So Mommy...

As a former Spanish teacher, I love the Latino/Hispanic culture.  One celebration that I find particularly fascinating is the Mexican holiday, El Día de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead.  While The Day of the Dead has made its way into American society (much like Cinco de Mayo), few people really understand what this complex holiday is all about.

The Day of the Dead:  More than a Mexican Halloween

It is simply coincidental that The Day of the Dead happens around the same time as Halloween.  While people do dress up as skeletons and candy sugar skulls are given out, The Day of the Dead is much more than costumes and treats.  In fact, El Día de los Muertos is actually more like Memorial Day, in that it is a time to remember deceased loved ones.

In my studies, I learned that those who celebrate El Día de los Muertos believe that there are actually three deaths.  The first one is when you physically die, the second one is when you are buried, and the third is when you are forgotten.  El Día de los Muertos is celebrated so that loved ones never have to suffer the third death, so that they are never forgotten…

Preparations for El Día de los Muertos begin at the end of October, making pan de muerto (the bread of the dead), calaveras, (candy sugar skulls), buying cempasuchiles (marigolds, or the flower of the dead), and preparing ofrendas (altars) for deceased loved ones.

November 1:  The Day of the Children

November 1 is All Saints Day, or El Día de los Inocentes (The Day of the Children).  Ofrendas made for the littles contain their pictures, favorite foods and toys, as well as candles and incense.  The scents of the incense and food, along with the light from the candles, are meant to guide the spirits home.  This is a time to celebrate the life of those lost, not to cry and mourn, because tears make the path slippery for those trying to return.

My students often asked if Mexicans truly believe that the spirits return.  I imagine just like here in the United States, some people believe in ghost and spirits, while for others, the celebration is more symbolic.  But either way, I love that El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is focused on life, despite its name.

Death should not be feared.  Life is what’s scary.

Because for those celebrating The Day of the Dead, death is simply a part of life.  And death is nothing to be feared.  In fact, life is what is scary.  Why?  Because you know you are going to die, so why be fearful?  You have no idea what’s going to happen in life, though.  That’s what is truly frightful.

For those of us who have suffered infertility and are walking the path of childlessness, we know this all too well.  Not one of us planned for the life we are living.  For many of us, it has been a scary and arduous journey.  But how wonderful to think that, at this time of year, we can remember the children we have loved and lost (whether they lived only in our hearts and minds, were with us for a short while in our wombs, were born sleeping, or were received back to Heaven after just a short while).  We will never forget these littles and so, they will never suffer that third death of being forgotten.  No, we will celebrate them.  And we will speak boldly about our infertility, childlessness, miscarriages, and struggles so that others know about our beautiful inocentes


It is also at this time of year that the monarchs migrate.  Thousands and thousands of them fly through Oaxaca and other parts of Mexico.  The Aztecs believed that these butterflies were the spirits of deceased loved ones…

So as November begins, remember your inocentes.  Place some marigolds on your porch, light a candle, and watch for the butterflies…  You are protecting your littles still, keeping their memories alive in your hearts and your home.  What a beautiful celebration of life…

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