Holidays, cultures, and traditions from around the world are something that truly intrigues me. I’m fascinated by how much our small families and communities as well as our larger culture and country influence who we are as people and how we live our lives.
When I notice an event around a holiday or tradition from another culture, I love to attend and learn more about why and what people are actually celebrating. I also want to raise my son to honor and respect all religions, beliefs, and traditions and I believe the more I expose him to other things, the more accepting (and curious) he will be as well.
We often have holidays and traditions that we don’t really understand or even know why we celebrate. Just last weekend my Ukranian refugee family came over for dinner and I talked with them about how people dress in costume and get candy for Halloween. They told me they didn’t understand and asked why. Sadly, I didn’t know the answer, I couldn’t remember why we “do Halloween,” except that it’s fun and both kids and adults love it.
It was a reminder to me to be more mindful of the meaning of things, in all of life, instead of taking these moments for granted, it’s a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the why.
Yesterday, I attended my first Day of the Dead celebrations held at the Denver Botanic Gardens. I knew the day is about honoring the people in your life that had passed. I remember my friend Anna always participating in this day to honor her father throughout high school. But my family has never honored their dead; in fact, most of my family has never even been back to the gravesite of my deceased father of 30+ years.
It’s just the way our family handled death, but that’s why I know and believe that we can learn so much from other cultures and traditions and the more we embrace them, the richer, more meaningful our own life can become.
The very basic overview of the traditions involved in the Day of the Dead include creating altars to welcome back your loved ones, dressing in skull costumes, visiting gravesites, and reminiscing about loved ones with friends and family. (There is really so much more on this so read this site or watch this PBS video to learn a little more!)
In U.S., the way we handle death is very obscure. Once our initial grieving process is over, it seems people silently honor their loved ones, but nothing is done formally. The customs around the Day of the Dead give people a chance to truly honor the people before them and to even be reminded of the preciousness of life.
While this year, I just got a glimpse into the celebrations, I’m looking forward to making it an annually event in our household.