Dia de los Muertos
Growing up, I had little idea of the importance of Dia de los Muertos. I remember going with my family members to the cemeteries in Mexico spending what seemed long, countless hours just sitting around a loved one’s grace. While the elders talked and shared stories, we walked around and played games just so we could make the time go by faster. Being young, I didn’t realize how important this holiday was for my family.
My appreciation for this holiday deepened as I aged, and owning this shop has also impacted my appreciation. It wasn’t until we started this business did I build my first altar. While it saddened me that some of my family members were now on the altar, I was proud to build it and to honor their history.
It was also when we started this shop did I truly understand the integral part that Pan de Muerto plays in the celebration. Many customers grew up with the traditional round loaf on their altars and dinner tables, the top adorned with dough to represent the bones of the deceased, and a dough ball on top to represent the tears of the living shed for the deceased. Other customers grew up with the more recent presentation sold at our shop, which is the same type of dough, but shaped to represent their loved ones who passed away. We’ve made teachers, soldiers, soccer players, and even a dog! Many of these same customers are also learning that the traditional round loaf was how it all started, and are now also taking a traditional round loaf home along with a figurine. Something from the past becomes part of their present, and a twist on a tradition is born.
I treasure and love hearing the stories of our customers and how they celebrate and honor their loved ones. It’s one of the privileges of being a long-standing part of the community. We hear of family members that were long-time customers who have recently passed. However, these are not stories of total sadness, as these stories are often peppered with wonderful memories of Tia or Abuelito who used to bring them by the shop every Sunday for their special treat.
Dia de Los Muertos gives us a wonderful opportunity to share these stories with others, especially our children, and they learn more about relatives that perhaps they were too young to remember or maybe didn’t even get a chance to meet. By sharing such stories, we strengthen our memories and show them the uniqueness and beauty that is their family.
With its flowers, papel picado, pan de muerto, and Calaveras, Dia de los Muertos is a colorful holiday that is becoming more commonly accepted in the United States. However, it is more than that. It is a wonderful opportunity to share about your past, to share your traditions and culture, and to honor what makes you, YOU: your family.