Photo: Day of the Dead
On Thursday (November 1), many Christians mark All Saints Day, and on Friday (November 2), All Souls Day honors the saints and faithful who have died. During this time, many Latinos also observe what they call the Day of the Dead, when it’s believed the spirits of the departed return to Earth. There are different traditions for this across Latin America, and Hispanics in the U.S. are celebrating as well.
In many communities, Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a joyful public event, with parades celebrating the belief that, for this one day every year, the spirits of loved ones have returned. Families often hold private observances as well.
In Rockville Maryland, Rocio and Luis Bermudez incorporate their Roman Catholic faith with their Mexican-American traditions, building a special altar in their home. On the altar they place pictures of their deceased family members and a portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Candles are lit to help the spirits find their way down from heaven. Water is put out to replenish the thirsty souls after their long journey. And since it’s a party, the altar is decorated with colorful papers and treats.
ROCIO BERMUDEZ (speaking Spanish): Estamos de fiesta. Es una fiesta.
LUIS BERMUDEZ (translating): We are in a festive mode right now. It’s a party.
Mr. BERMUDEZ: The mango, the water, the tequila — it’s all an enticement so that they will come, and when they come they’ll have their favorite foods that they can celebrate with us.
When the altar is finished, the family offers prayers for both the living and the dead.
Mr. BERMUDEZ: We then pray to the Virgin Mary, to the saints, and to the Lord so that they’re with us, as well as our loved ones, as a sign of respect for God.
The Bermudez family says the Day of the Dead ritual reflects the Catholic Church’s teachings about life and death.
Mr. BERMUDEZ: So the belief is that when we die our body physically isn’t here, but our spirit still lives on forever. We actually are reborn. So that’s what we celebrate. The spirit doesn’t die, it lives on.
For the Bermudez family, that’s something to celebrate every year.
Mr. BERMUDEZ: I believe that when I go and I die, my spirit is going to go to heaven, and then every year I’ll be coming back on the Day of the Dead to visit down here to my loved ones.