The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

Day of the Dead

with 8 comments

We take, we unwind the jewels, the blue flowers are woven over the yellow ones, that we may give them to the children. –From an Aztec poem

My wife and I had our first annual Day of the Dead party. It was an amazing experience! I took a couple of days off from work, and we had our friends come over for a party on Friday night, and a lunch on Saturday. We learned to make sugar skulls, tortillas, mole, and many other delicious things. We even set up an altar dedicated to my grandfathers’ memory–all of them–and to Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, and Octavia Butler. 

We decorated the altar with marigolds, candles sage, sugar skulls,water, coffee, chocolate, and even a Superman comic my grandfather would have enjoyed. We ate and made merry with our friends, and spent most of the night and a huge part of the next day just chatting and reminiscing about life. I had the opportunity to make new friends, and to get to know old ones better. 

My wife made her face up as a sugar skull and looked beautiful. I didn’t really dress up too much, but wore some faux 1700s clothing and jeans. 

To me, Dia de los Muertos, is a chance to honor the people who came before me, and who made me in to who I am. I don’t believe that my ancestors literally came to visit me during the night, but they sure were in my thoughts and in my heart. It was very nice to set up something physical to give those memories shape. I felt connected to the memory of my grandfather, from whom I might have inherited my geekiness, and my love of comic books, if those traits are genetically transferable. 

Another cool thing about the altar is that it included stuff from all over the world, but instead of telling you about it, I’ll show it to you. Here:

Day of the Dead Altar

Day of the Dead Altar

From the little bit I know about Aztec philosophy, I know that they had a dualistic view of the world. They believed that life contained death and that death contained life, so that they were all one. I do not know if they were right or not, but I do know that in celebrating those who have come before us we honor the continuation of life. 

I know that the Aztecs were very concerned with the temporal nature of life, and invited us to truly savor our days, since out life was “nothing but a wild flower.” Flowers, of which we had many this weekend, were reminders of the beauty and the shortness of life.

It was an honor to learn to embody the traditions of those who came before me. As I was rolling the maza to make tortillas, I remembered sitting in my great-grandmother’s kitchen as she made mole sauce and chicken broth. I remembered the way in which you have to dip your hands in flour and water to keep the flour from sticking to you. I remembered the smells of food and the noise of the city outside. I was happy to share those with  my friends and wife, and maybe some day with my children. 

Over all, it was a great experience for everyone, and I’m sure we’ll do it again next year.


PS: I was going to post about this in a few days, but after reading the Whatever blog by John Scazli, I felt moved to post quickly… My  wife made it, and one of our friends decorated it. This skull is for you, Mr. Scalzi, enjoy!


A candy skull for John Scalzi, and his readers

A candy skull for John Scalzi, his family, and his readers... Maybe I should photograph more than one 🙂


Written by Hector

November 2, 2008 at 12:41 am

8 Responses

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  1. Cool! Thanks!

    John Scalzi

    November 2, 2008 at 1:05 am

  2. John– Any time, man!


    November 2, 2008 at 1:07 am

  3. Thank you for your comment vis-a-vis Whatever.

    Love your alter : )


    November 2, 2008 at 5:08 pm

  4. gigi–I’m glad you liked it 🙂


    November 2, 2008 at 5:25 pm

  5. Rad. Looks like you had a great time.


    November 2, 2008 at 9:39 pm

  6. Flayrah –We did. We would have loved to have you over!


    November 4, 2008 at 2:12 am

  7. My mom and sister passed away in ’87 & ’97 from Type 1 Diabetes. Several years ago, my friend lined my walk way with yellow mums and left me a card explaining the significance of the day and the flowers. It was so meaningful to me to spend the day remembering my family, eating their favorite foods, etc. The next year, I invited a friend and his family over who had lost his mother and sister as well. We haven’t done that in a long time but I think about it every year. Thanks for sharing your family’s day.


    November 4, 2008 at 5:09 am

  8. Joni– It is so important that we remember what our loved ones have given us. Thank you for sharing your story. It inspires me to want to continue to honor that tradition. I hope to do so next year.


    November 4, 2008 at 12:38 pm

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