Guatemalans celebrate Day of the Dead on Nov. 1 and 2, coinciding with All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The celebrations are a way to remember loved ones who have passed away.
“We celebrate with a mixture of traditions from the Maya and the Spaniards,” said Norma, whose son, Rodvin, is sponsored through Unbound in Guatemala. “My mother showed me to offer fruits, food, flowers and any other things that our deceased liked when alive. We believe that they visit us on this day to share the offerings that we prepare for them. We also believe in prayers as a way of talking with them and asking God for their eternal rest.”
Similar to Day of the Dead customs in other countries, Guatemalan families celebrate the holiday by spending time in the cemeteries tending to and decorating the graves of their family members, as well as offering gifts of food. They paint headstones and put fresh flowers at graves, adding vibrant color to the landscape.
Families bring picnics with a traditional food called fiambre, which is a type of salad made with cold cuts, cheese, hard-boiled eggs and many different types of vegetables. Fiambre is eaten only at this time of year, and each family has their own recipe.
One of the most unique aspects of Guatemala’s Day of the Dead celebrations is the flying of kites.“At the cemetery as a child I flew kites because my grandmother said that this is how we could talk to the spirits,” sponsored youth Rodvin said. “Now we go to offer flowers and candles; we talk to our loved ones through prayers.”
The kites are made using bamboo and paper, and some are more than 70 feet in diameter. On the Day of the Dead, you can see hundreds of kites flying in most Guatemalan towns, ranging from the normal sizes to the giant kites.
According to Luis Cocon, Unbound’s communications liaison in Guatemala, “the kites are a combination of art and mysticism, and their purpose is to connect with the souls of the dead.”
For Guatemalan families like Rodvin’s, the Day of the Dead is about remembering their loved ones and connecting with them through traditions that have been passed down through generations.
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