Center for Creative Living

This last Sunday, October 31, 2010, at the Center for Creative Living, we celebrated El Dia De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead).  This is a holiday (or festival) which is celebrated in Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, and other areas in Central and South America populated with the Latino ethnic background.

            November 2nd is the official date for Day of the Dead, although it is celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd.  These dates correspond with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  This correspondence results from the Catholic Church’s efforts to “find similarities between the indigenous and Christian beliefs.”

            While customs vary within different regions, it is universally understood to be a time when family members who have died are remembered.  In Mexico, this festival is considered to be the most important holiday of the year.

            Although this celebration is associated with the dead, it is not portrayed as a morbid or depressing time, but rather a period full of life, happiness, color, food, family, and fun.

            On Nov. 2nd, family members visit the gravesites of their loved ones.  They decorate their graves with flowers, enjoy picnics consisting of favorite foods of the deceased, and socially interact with others at the cemetery.  This is an important social ritual that the Latino people see as “a way of recognizing the cycle of life and death that is human existence.”  In certain areas, an all-night candlelight vigil takes place by the graves of the family members.  The whole occasion is festive, and everyone talks of the dead as if they were still alive.  During this time, people “remember, re-live, and enjoy.”  It is a time for the dead to return home and visit loved ones, feast on their favorite foods, imbibe in their favorite “spirits” and listen to festive music.

            The main symbols of this holiday are skulls and skeletons, which are displayed throughout the cities.  Scenes of skeletons hugging, marching, dancing, and laughing are seen in window displays on the streets.  Marigolds are another significant symbol for the Day of the Dead festivity, and are known as the “flower of the dead.”  Their scent is believed to “attract the souls and draw them back, during this time when the veil is thinnest between the two realms.

            Our service actually started on Friday, Oct. 29 when members of the congregation built and decorated the altar (see pictures) under the leadership of Laura Marshall (our Yoga instructor and CCL Choir member).  For several years now, Laura has been the organizer of El Dia De Los Muertos.  She was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and still has a home there which she has opened for various members of the UCM community during this festival time.  Rev. Janet Childs, for one, speaks highly of her spiritual experience of being there, in the middle of the festivities.

            Service started out with Rev. Doti Boon leading us in a wonderful prayer/ guided meditation with guitar and vocal accompaniment by Rev. Janet Childs and Carolyn Keys on flute.  Then the service was turned over to Laura Marshall.  Laura gave a brief history of Day of the Dead, explained the importance of the altar design and how delighted she was to be sharing this with CCL.  She also described the song she taught the choir;  La Llorona” (The Weeping Woman).  The choir sang the song…see pictures.

            Then Rev. April Lussier spoke about the pagan/wiccan celebration of Hallowmas/Samhain and the autumnal harvest time celebrated by followers of the goddess tradition.  As part of her service she passed out dried apple slices so we could see the pentagram formed in the center of the apple.

            Ronnie Grigsby closed the service with a heart warming rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

            Then we feasted on tamales, home made chips and salsa, tuna sandwiches, home made rice pudding, papayas, grapes, pan (Mexican bread with a skull on top), Mexican cookies, and, of course, Halloween candy.

            Thanks to all who helped and those in attendance of this special day of blessing. 

Yours in the Light,

Rev. Corky Whitacre

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