Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Dia de los Muertos 2009
My altar for Dia de los Muertos was very simple. I was out of town for so much of October, and I was still trying to finish the dragon/lizard costume until almost Halloween. I just didn't have the time to gather everything I wanted to add. I included photos of my Grandma Bozeman and my Grandaddy Turner because I could get to them very quickly. The dinosaur and truck represent a close friend who died at twenty. I believe they are both items that I gave him. The rubber stamp is the quote "We do not remember days, we remember moments." I included the cake plate because it reminds me of my grandma. The skull shaker and placemat were both given to me by my friend Jen, who has been celebrating this holiday with me for the last thirteen years. I found the fabulous backdrop last year at JoAnn. It's a Dia de los Muertos themed flannel.
I believe that some people are disturbed by my happy skeletons and the fact that I celebrate this holiday, so I thought I'd explain mt reasoning.
Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico on November 1-3. Families go to their loved ones gravesides, decorate elaborate altars, prepare favorite foods, etc. I am familiar with the general idea, but I have very much adapted my celebration.
I still keep the happy skeletons because they remind me not to be afraid of death, and they just look so joyful with their bright colors. I have never dedicated an altar to one person as is traditionally done, though. I discovered Dia de los Muertos in the fall of 1995 when the art department at my college had an altar on display. I lost my PawPaw the year before and my Grandma just a few months earlier.
So in my windowsill outside my dorm room, I placed a begonia in a jelly jar, an American flag, a couple of photos, and a package of ramen noodles (my grandparents introduced me to them). It helped me release some of the grief that I'd been holding inside. Just a few days later, the close friend of the dinosaur was killed in motorcycle accident.
The following year, the grief was still intense. I asked for (and received) permission to use a table in our dorm hallway for an altar so that several of us could participate. Jen wanted to remember her grandma, and Cathy's father had just died. We put up a few items about a week early. Over the course of the next several days, the altar transformed. Rather than anyone thinking it was morbid, anytime someone new saw it, she would run to her room and come back with an object to memorialize someone she loved. It became such a beautiful tribute to loved ones for so many women.
So, I do not see it as morbid when I embroider sugar skulls or skeletons like I have been off and on the past month or two (great patterns available at Sublime Stitching). I don't think it's depressing to display photos of people I loved who are no longer with us. I don't believe it's sacreligious when I call the display an altar because "altar" has more than one meaning.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of the holiday and why this American chooses to celebrate (in my own way).