Celebrating Your Loved Ones who have Crossed Over
There is a charming movie called Coco, which describes the Day of the Dead so perfectly. In the movie, a young boy is looking for his grandfather. The young boy can somehow cross the bridge between the living and dead world during the three days of the Dead. As he is received into the afterlife, he meets people of his family, who have crossed over, and they tell him the stories of their lives.
In the movie, Coco's ancestors cross between the world of the living and the dead, on a bridge made of marigolds. Marigolds represent the sun and are believed to have the power to resurrect. It also represents how fragile life can be and adds a small essence of grief and loss. In Mexico, the marigold is called the Flor de Muerto--Flower of Dead. Marigolds have a pungent scent and bright color and are believed to guide the spirits to their family altars, a private shrine built in their honor.
The Day of the Dead, also called Día de Muertos or Dia de Los Muertos, is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and Mexican heritage everywhere. The Day of the Dead is a two to three-day celebration where loved ones can awaken from their death sleep and return to celebrate and make contact with the living. The deceased are believed to provide council and advice to the living through prayer and meditation.
The celebrations may begin on the evening of October 31, known as All Saint's eve, and goes to November 2. On October 31, All Saint's Eve, preparations are made for alters to the deceased. In the movie, Coco, a relative must have a picture on the alter to be able to cross over and back. If a relative presents no picture for the altar, the deceased is viewed as forgotten, and their spirit lost forever.
November 1 is called "el Dia de Los Inocentes" ( the Day of the Innocents) or "el Día de Los Angelitos" (Day of the Little Angels). It is also referred to as -"All Saints Day." Alters are made to children and babies who have passed over the marigold bridge.
November 2 is All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead when all souls can return; this is the Day when the families go to the cemetery to decorate their loved ones' graves and their loved ones' tombs Memorial Day in the United States.
During the three days, family and friends prepare for their ancestors' anticipated arrival by cleaning and decorating the graves and cemetery. They set up their alters at the cemetery, or in their homes or courtyard to honor their deceased loved ones.
Every alter usually includes the four elements of water, wind, fire, and earth. Water is on the alter so the spirits can quench their thirst. Paper or plastic flags or banners represent the wind. Candles are fire elements to light the way. They are formed in a cross to represent the cardinal directions of North, South, East, and West so that the spirits can find their way. The earth elements are represented by food; usually, a Day of the Dead bread called Pan de Muertos. Tamales, sugar skulls, mole negro, candied pumpkins, hot chocolate, and fruit are a few of the foods also used. Other items on the altar may include jewelry, pictures, other favorite food or drink from the departed life, and marigolds are a few of the items displayed on the altar during the celebration.
The three-day fiesta is filled with gatherings of family and friends who are remembering their loved ones, fun, music, parades, skull makeup and costumes, marigolds, candles, incense, traditional food and drink, sugar skulls, paper mâché, and cardboard skeletons, incense, and other traditional decorations.
In Mexican culture, death is seen as a natural part of life and celebrated, not feared. New life comes from death. The Monarch Butterfly is also honored during the Day of the Dead celebration and is believed to hold the departed loved ones' spirits. The Monarch butterflies' migration arrives in Mexico for the winter around November 1, which coincides with Día de Los Muertos celebrations.
The Monarch butterfly is symbolic that a metamorphosis has begun in your life. The butterfly is believed to be in tune with the ancestral wisdom and can guide you through major transitions.
I invite you to watch the movie Coco and join in a Celebration of the Day of the Dead this year. Build an altar to their memory. Go to their graves or markers. Celebrate their life. Honor them, so they don't disappear from your life.
Mary Dillin-Shurtleff of Pearls of the Soul is an author of the metaphysical realm, intuitive spiritual coach, motivational speaker, hypnotherapist, and feng shui expert, who teaches her audiences how to manage the stressors in their lives in a program called: The Connected Be-ing.