Contrary to what the skulls and bones and much appropriated imagery might suggest, Día de los Muertos is more about celebrating the continuity of life than glorifying the finality of death.
In 2020 the Mexican Day of The Dead was celebrated (no doubt with less hugging, kissing and cheek-to-cheek salsa dancing than previous years) on the 1st and 2nd of November. Not just in Mexico, mind you, but throughout Latin America, in parts of the Caribbean, and in cities all around the world and across Africa.
Life After Death
The dates do tie in with the catholic celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, but the whole glorious explosion of glitter, sugar skulls and brightly coloured paper art goes beyond religion into something more spiritual, human and deeply unifying.
At its core, the festival is a reaffirmation of indigenous life, originating as it did several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people. To these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit and constantly available if called upon to assist in matters of the heart or harvest.
I See Dead People
In 2008, UNESCO recognized the importance of Día de los Muertos by adding it to their ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ list. For regular Latin folk across the globe, it will always be a special time to remember fallen friends, long departed ancestors, family roots and, of course, a good excuse to have a party and raise a few glasses of pulque to the dead, exclaiming: “Gracias por tu contribución”.
Death is a part of everyday life in Mexico and their attitude towards it is in many ways much healthier than the one that seems to prevail in dear old ‘stiff-upper-lip’ land. Tears, laughter and exuberant dancing are all encouraged. Dressing up as skeletons and painting your face as a skull is just part of the fun. Rather than fear death, the logic seems to go, death should be embraced, celebrated and seen for what it is – something that we all have to face eventually
Did We Ofrenda?
Built in private homes and cemeteries across Mexico, ofrenda are altars designed to welcome the spirits back to the realm of the living. Bathed in a fog of incense and draped with offerings for the returning dead —water to quench their thirst after the long journey, food, family photos, and a candle for each dead relative – ofrenda are places of ‘whassup?’ rather than worship.
Then, when the party’s over, Marigold petals are scattered from altar to grave site creating a brilliant orange pathway to guide wandering souls back to their place of rest. How cool is that.
Are You Winding Me Up?
Here in the UK every one of us will have to deal with the passing away of loved ones, eventually, global pandemic or not. But it doesn’t get any easier to deal with the loss, the regrets, the loneliness, the emptiness, or, indeed, the stress of family fall outs, arguments and bickering that often accompanies the unpleasant business of ‘winding up their estate’.
The Last Great Taboo
Fortunately, Attic Self Storage is big and grown up enough to talk to you about even the most sensitive situation you may need help with, including the practical aspects of dealing with death, bereavement and house clearances.
Our friendly front of house team are used (and trained) to meeting people when they are at their most vulnerable and distraught. They aren’t experts in grief counselling, but they are experts in giving you the space you need to cope with whatever life, and death, might throw at you.
Todos Somos Calaveras
We’re here for you if you need a cup of tea, some tissues or a quiet room for a private meeting. We can provide a post box, delivery services and a mail address should you need one. We also lead the way when it comes to providing safe, secure spaces to store a lifetime of belongings, rare art, ceramic animal collections, scale models of Buckingham Palace made from cocktail sticks or precious libraries of old family photos in leather bound tomes.
Whether you’ve recently lost a loved one, or happen to lose someone in the future, we understand what that feels like. Everybody is someone’s grandad, grandmother, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or third cousin twice removed.
As they say in Mexico ‘Todos somos calaveras’ – We are all skeletons. Underneath our manmade trappings, we are all the same. And remember – none of us get out of this alive.
Stay safe and well in the run up to Christmas.