"Our Memories, they have to be passed down by those who knew us in life - in stories they tell about us." - Coco
Yesterday officially began what is known as Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the dead. Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that is an ever-changing holiday that traces its earliest roots to the Aztec people in where it is now Central Mexico. It is said that the Aztecs to honor their dead would place skulls on their temples in the annual celebration to honor and commune with those who have passed on.
In the process of honoring and celebrating your loved ones, within your home, people build altars with an ofrenda, which is an offering to their loved one's soul. Candles are lit and items that are left behind are put out. It is a beautiful moment where families talk and tell stories of their loved ones and remember those who have come before them. The offerings given include food and a special Pan de Muerto and bright orange flowers are laid out to help guide the souls home.
This holiday as a genealogist and as someone who as the rest of the world has experienced loss in their life is an amazing dedicated time to celebrate your loved ones, and to know that they are near and also.
I grew up celebrating it in school because of Spanish class, but it was only briefly highlighted. It was not until last year that I have made it a point to make this part of my inner makeup, part of my celebration a part of my the rest of my life.
My First Ofrenda
I write this post not just to remind others to make it a point to celebrate their ancestors, but also to learn that skulls are not something to be scared of, they are not something to fear or call evil. Each skull that is laid out for Day of the Dead is placed as a decoration to recognize a person who has passed. Some of them even have the name of the loved ones on their foreheads. The Aztecs taught us to not be afraid of death, that death is something that is sacred because they believed in an afterlife. I found in such a powerful way that the cartoon Coco helped emphasize that. It did such a powerful job of showing us the connection between telling our loved one's stories and remembering them and to make sure they are not forgotten. The quote given by Hector in Coco says it all when we forget our loved ones:
"He's been forgotten. When there's no one left in the living world who remembers you, you disappear from this world. We call it the Final Death."
How sad, how sad it is that all of us can say that we have forgotten many of our ancestors that we have not taken a moment, only a moment to honor their lives or share a story.
May we try our hardest to keep telling stories, to keep their memories alive, to live each day in their honor. May we take the sweet words and lyrics of the songs from Coco to heart:
Our love for each other will live on forever
In every beat of my proud corazón [heart]
For even if I'm far away I hold you in my heart........ Remember Me!
If you are looking or in need of ways to digitize or record your
loved one's stories, please contact Past and the Present!