Here in Mexico there is a beautiful tradition on November first to remember departed loved ones. The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) allows families and friends to recount tales of the dearly departed, bring their favorite earthly pleasures to their gravesite and gather to remember.
For instance, if Uncle Ricardo loved tequila and Pall Mall cigarettes, his altar would have those items, as well as some bread of the Dead (Pan de Muerte), flowers, candles, and other little delights. Copal incense would be burned in hopes that the smell of the flowers and incense would draw him back for that one night to be with the family again.
For anyone seeing these customs for the first time, the skulls and images of skeletons used in decorating might seem scary at first – but as a Mexican way to laugh at death, it seems fitting. Candy skulls made of sugar and chocolate make perfect decorations. In some stores you can get your sugar skull customized with names.
Most homes have personal altars, and the deceased’s gravesite would be cleaned up and decorated as well. Entire families gather at the cemetery on this night of remembrance, bringing food to share along with the memories.
Sharing remembrances and even funny stories is one way to bring the departed back for one night, until next years’ Dia de los Muertos.