Oct 30 2015

Celebrating Day of the Dead

From left: Leti and her daughter Norma sell handmade decorations for Day of the Dead.

From left: Leti and her daughter Norma sell handmade decorations for Day of the Dead.

El Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a popular holiday in Latin America when people visit the gravesites of loved ones. Headstones are painted, cleaned and adorned with flowers. It’s a time for families to come together to honor their loved ones who have passed on.

Originally established by the indigenous population in Mexico, the holiday and its traditions are celebrated throughout all of Latin America. According to UNESCO, the holiday “commemorates the transitory return to Earth of deceased relatives and loved ones.”

In El Salvador, 10-year-old sponsored child Norma and her mother, Leti, celebrate Day of the Dead by visiting the graves of Norma’s grandmother, grandfather and uncle.

Leti and Norma also make plastic flowers and garland to adorn headstones, and they sell their decorations at the cemetery next to other vendors. Leti and Norma begin making the decorations by hand on Oct. 1. They use plastic bags and colored paper to create the plastic flowers and garland, and always make a few extra to decorate the graves of their family members.

“I think we do this to remember our loved ones,” Leti said. “I think they are still here. Every time I come I give them a flower to remember them. I think they are part of our memories.”

Leti said people also bring food to their deceased loved ones.

“If they liked candies, they bring candies. … Whatever they like that is what the family brings to them,” she said. People said that [their loved ones who passed on] come at night from their graves to eat.”

Leaving food for the deceased and eating at the cemetery is a way for families to be close to their loved ones and share a meal with them once more.

Similarly in Ecuador, Unbound local staff said that families get together and prepare their loved ones’ favorite foods. They bring food to the graves and have a picnic to celebrate their relatives or friends who passed away.

On the coastal side of Ecuador, people play music after going to Mass and sometimes bring mariachi bands to play the favorite songs of their loved ones.

And like egg nog is to Christmas, colada morada is to Day of the Dead — at least in Ecuador. Our local staff tell us that colada morada is a hot drink made from purple-colored corn, pineapple, blackberries, sugar cane, cinnamon and other ingredients. It’s a staple drink served nearly everywhere in Ecuador on Day of the Dead.

In other areas of the world, people may hold carnivals or dance festivals, but one message is universal throughout Latin America on El Día de los Muertos, and that message is love and a celebration of life.

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