Traditions of a Culture

Halloween in Mexico

One of the neighborhood tents set up to leave gifts for deceased loved ones. Tina took this photo. Click here to see what she wrote about “Halloween” a couple of years ago.

To my friends in the states… Halloween isn’t really a thing in Mexico, although “trick or treating” is creeping its way into the mainstream (more sales for vendors, right?). But, there is still a holiday celebrated on October 31… and November 1st… and November 2nd. Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead… dates back to Aztec religious practices) is a huge part of tradition in Mexico. It isn’t about dressing up in cute costumes and kids running around the neighborhood getting candy (although that does happen), it is a three day family event that rivals our Thanksgiving family gatherings in the states.

Flowers for the dead
A sea of flowers and decorations at the cemetery near my home. Families gathered leaving food and drink for the spirits when they visit.
Music for the spirits
Bands play at several grave sights to please the spirits that will come to visit on the Day of the Dead.

As I walk around the neighborhood, I see altars on patios and on the corners that families have carefully and thoughtfully set up to honor their deceased relatives. But it is more than just a remembrance, it is a way to provide communication with the dead. For example, bread, candy, alcohol, etc. (anything that the deceased enjoyed while living) are placed on the altars along with photos and personal items of the beloved. It is believed that the dead loved one will visit the dedicated altar at night and partake in the food items left for them. Of course, my logical curiosity says, “Well how do they explain it when it doesn’t get eaten?” Apparently, the dead are not able to actually eat the items, but they are able to get the flavor and nutrients from them. So in this, the living loved ones take comfort in their ability to please their dead loved ones. November 1st is dedicated to the children who have passed on, and November 2nd is for the adults. On both of these days, families will gather at the cemetery where they have spent much time and money to make the grave sight beautiful to please the spirits as they visit on these nights. There are even mariachi bands ready to play a tune for the dead.

These traditions run very deep, and most cherish the time spent with family and remembering their loved ones. It is understandable to see how this practice is embraced and very difficult to break away from in this culture. But God’s word is very clear about attempting to communicate with the dead and focusing on these things (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). He wants us to look to him for comfort and direction and steer clear of practices that Satan can use to wedge doubt and fear into our minds (1 Timothy 2:5).

Día de Muertos Altar
One Día de Muertos Altar in my neighborhood.
Click to enlarge photo

My neighbor has an impressive altar set up for loved ones. Their daughter (5 years old) was chatting with me yesterday morning (Oct. 31) and she was very confused that I had not decorated for the spirits yet. As I was fiddling around on my patio, she would periodically wander over and bring colorful streamers for me to be able to decorate and be ready for the traditions. She really couldn’t understand our (mine and Emily’s) reluctance do it, and our limited Spanish about celebrating life and not death was met with a shrug of her shoulders as she skipped off to chatter with her make believe friend on her “cell phone” (she is definitely a cutie… reminds me a lot of Amanda when she was that age). We can only hope that Christ shines to the people we come in contact with and seeds are planted for those who serve here after us.

 

Photo Summary

The community center classes have been packed full (if you follow me on social media, you have seen the amazing turnout). We had to limit the Monday painting classes to 15 students to make it manageable with supplies and teaching. I am so thankful to have a team that is willing to help with the class. I would be drowning without them!

English conversation classes continue as well as basic English instruction. There are several offered, and I do Tuesday Conversation in Jesús Marîa and Wednesday classes in the Acozac neighborhood. The other classes (crafts, guitar, country dance, etc.) are well attended also. It is so awesome to serve and represent Christ and the church in such a fun way… it doesn’t feel like work (although my aging body may disagree with that a bit). You can also read more about the community center classes on Tina’s blog here.

Here are a few photos from the past month or so… There are a couple thrown in there from my visa trip to Texas. I actually got a visit to the Texas State Fair squeezed into my short stay. Click an image to enlarge it.

 

 

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