Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Days of the Dead

It's that time of year again.  Unlike last year, Abraham and I didn't go to a graveyard to investigate how people pass these days, but there are abundant signs just outside our door.

At first glance, the practices and traditions of the Day(s) of the Dead may seem innocent.  Families remember and honor their dead, and children learn from an early age not to fear death.  A closer look, however, shows that the majority don't simply remember the dead.

Cempazuchitl sold at a market  

In front of many gates,  families form a cross from the petals of the marigold flower (called cempazuchitl) and also make a trail of petals leading up to the cross.  The marigold is used to guide the spirit of the dead, either because of its strong smell or because of its bright color. 

On a drive to another state on Saturday, we saw fields upon fields of cempazuchitl flowers being cut by families, and many trucks filled with bundles of the flowers passed on the road.


Small sugar figures for altars
Once the spirit has arrived at the home, guided by the flowers, candles, the smell of food on the altar, and the welcoming call of the families, the family has an altar prepared with food, candles, more flowers, and incense.  The families do not set up altars simply to carry on a tradition.  Most, if not all, truly believe that their loved ones return in spirit form during the days of the dead and that the spirit partakes of the offerings left at the altar.

A drama in the city square

In the schools across the nation, students are required to bring in offerings to the dead.  Those who do not bring offerings lose points on their grades. October 31st is a partial day of school, only for putting out the offerings on the altars.  November 1st and 2nd are non-school days.

Please continue to pray along with us that these practices of calling on spirits and celebrating death can end.  Pray that the people will be steeped in the life-giving power of Jesus.

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