Day of the Dead. Honoring the Souls Before Us by Writing Our Own Legacy and Living a Life Well-Lived.
By Jackie White
In America, we just celebrated Halloween, a holiday that is rooted in ancient celebrations honoring the souls in the spirit world. Around the world cultures pay respects to those who have passed in celebration and remembrance. The Day of the Dead, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are some of those celebrations. Some may view these celebrations as macabre, but it is really a celebration of remembrance and reverence for those souls who are no longer with us in the physical world. It is also an opportunity to look at our own lives and think of how we might be remembered one day.
The Day of the Dead
In Latin American and Spanish speaking countries they celebrate the Day of the Dead or el Dia’ de los Muertos. On this day families welcome back the souls of family members for a celebration and reunion of sorts. They believe the border between the physical world and the spiritual world opens to allow the souls of the dead to visit and feast, drink, dance and celebrate the reunion. Gifts of favorite foods are left on gravesites and offerings left in homes for the beloved souls.
Beautifully decorated skull masks are worn and sugar candy skulls are commonly eaten that day. Elaborate alters to honor those have passed are impressive and interesting. The alters are intended to help guide the souls back to their homes. The alters can vary in design but have some of the same elements such as pictures of those who have passed, flowers, different levels which represent the different levels of Heaven, Purgatory and Earth. These are the steps the soul must take to ascend into Heaven. Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread), candies and candles are just some of the elements you can find in one of these sacred alters.
In Italy on November 1 and 2 people celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day. La Festa di Ognissanti celebrates all the Catholic Saints. Recognized as a public holiday in Italy and schools and businesses are closed accordingly. This holiday is also called All Hallows Day, or the Feast of All Saints. For Catholics this is a holy day of obligation which means it is a required day to attend mass. It is a solemn day where families get together to attend mass and visit the cemetery. Sometimes mass is held in the cemetery or a procession from the church to cemetery takes place. For weeks ahead of time, the graves are meticulously cleaned and decorated in preparation. As with any Italian celebration, food is always an important part and this day is no exception. Traditional foods of this holiday are Ceci con Le Costine (Chickpea soup) and Il pane dei morti is a sweet bread made with raisins, cinnamon and chocolate. All Saint’s Day is not only celebrated in Italy but also in Spain, Mexico, Philippines, Croatia, Haiti, Germany, Poland, Ivory Coast, Portugal and Guatemala are only a few of the countries also celebrate those who have passed. For some excellent images of these celebrations check out this NBC article: https://www.nbcnews.com/slideshow/all-saints-day-brings-living-dead-n676576
On November 2, Italian’s celebrate All Souls Day (Giorno dei Morti) is celebrating loved ones who have departed. An important act of remembrance on this day is to visit the graves of those who have passed. They bring offerings of chrysanthemums and light candles in honor of their dearly departed. This occasion is far from somber event of All Saint’s Day. It is a time to celebrate and remember the lives of those who are gone. They even talk with their family members as if they were still here in the physical world. Some believe the souls return to Earth on this day, so an extra plate is set at the table for them to feast as well. Children who have been good and have remembered those who have passed in their prayers will receive gifts of toys and sweets hidden around their home on November 2. Many other countries also celebrate All Souls Day or incorporate honoring their relatives who have passed in celebrations like the Day of the Dead.
These celebrations are not celebrations of death, they are celebrations of life. It is a time to pay reverence to those who have departed and to celebrate the legacy they have left for those who remain. It is a great reminder to pay respects for those who have pioneered the stories our family history. Those who have walked before and set an example, whether good or bad, with lessons we can take away for us to live our best life. So, upon the occasion of the Day of the Dead, All Saints Day or All Souls Day, take a moment to pause and reflect on prior life journeys that have come before you, thank them for their time here on Earth and the lessons that you may have learned from them. It’s an ideal time to examine the way you are living your life and the legacy you will leave for those who come after you. Are you setting an example of a life well lived? If not, it’s never too late to really begin living and celebrating the life you have been given. With that, I raise a glass in the words of my Sicilian grandpa and say “salute” to honor those who have come before providing guidance and inspiration for us to live a life well lived.
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.