The Day of the Dead in Mexico (November 2nd) is truly special. It is a celebration of the transcendence of death, both whimsical and reverent, full of colors, flavors and smells.
My son and I are both roosters; we like to be out early to avoid the heat and the crowds and to truly savor our moments together. Our tradition every year is to be at the “Casa de Cultura” in downtown Puebla early to admire the “ofrendas”. Ofrendas are basically altars created by artfully arranging the favorite items of deceased loved ones so that during the Day of the Dead, when the spirits of the dead come back to visit the earth, they find a delightful place to come and enjoy the essence of what they loved when they were living .
In addition to the dead’s favorite items on the altar and perhaps a framed photo, there are traditional breads with shaped dough on top to represent a skull and bones as well as the pungent smelling petals of the marigold flower arranged so that they lead the dead back to their ofrenda. These ofrendas can be quite elegant with many artistic pieces added or humble with just a few basic items that the dead enjoyed while living.
There is a line outside the door at the Casa de Cultura to enter. Once inside, there is a quiet and reverent sensation as everyone stops in front of each ofrenda, taking in the symbols laid out on each of these altars. The cloying smell of incense lingers as we walk. While we are reminded of how death will always be with us, we are also encouraged to laugh to ease its pain and to remember and honor those, who for one night each year, seek to reconnect the world of the living and of the dead.