(this is Muchacho the sugar skull. Amy made him, but he is a friend to us all!)
Amy and I went to our first ever Dia de los Muertos party this weekend, hosted by our friends Mike and Meg, and their son, Finn. Although I remember community events celebrating Dia de los Muertos, mostly from my time in San Antonio, this was the first time I'd been to a Dia de los Muertos party, and it was a really nice gathering. For those who aren't familiar with it, the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrates family, friends, and loved ones who have passed away. The invitees were asked to bring a food or drink that was a favorite of a loved one who has passed, and a picture of a deceased loved one or a small favorite item for placement on a decorated "altar". The food was labeled with cards which explained: "This is (fill in the food). He/she loved (the person's name)!" The pictures on the altar weren't labeled, but people actually really did gather around the altar to look at the pictures and to explain to each other who the people in the pictures were. There were some really good pictures, some items that reminded people of loved ones, and a few small crosses and candles. I heard a few good stories related to the pictures, and people clearly enjoy the opportunity to tell stories about people who have passed.
Also, in keeping with Dia de los Muertos tradition, there were sugar skulls that the kids and adults decorated, and, in general, the party had lots of bright colors and decorations.
I've known about Dia de los Muertos for a while, but somehow it all made a little more sense after the party. For most Americans, I think it seems a little strange to have happy, positive feelings about skulls, skeletons, and thoughts of dead loved ones, but Dia de los Muertos is, at it's root, about remembering and honoring people that have been important to us and recognizing the fact that death doesn't truly remove them from our lives.
Anyway, there were lots of small kids roaming (i.e., racing) about at this party, and it made me happy to think that these kids will hopefully have some memories of celebrating a holiday that honors family members and loved ones who have passed. It kind of formalizes remembrance in a celebratory way, and it just seems like a really positive, cool thing.
And the food was great, too!
Thanks so much to Meg, Mike, and Finn! It was great a great party, filled with fun, warm people!