Tuesday, November 3, 2009

dia de los muertos.

As posted a few days ago, San Francisco holds an annual procession in the Mission District that I very much wanted to check out.

Although I grew up in a wonderfully racially diverse community, Day of the Dead was a holiday I was largely unaware of until a trip to Mexico, where my husband bought one of the skeletal figurines.

On subsequent trips to Mexico, I also fell in love with the textiles, embroidery, silver workings, flowers, and all the religious imagery: Catholic, ancient and indigenous, and superstitious. So, it follows that I am very much drawn to the Day of the Dead celebrations and aesthetic.

The website for San Francisco's celebration begins with this lovely quote:

Don't just cry mournfully over the individuals, dreams and influences that have helped make you what you are. Dance for them; sing for them; honor them; leap into the air and kiss the sky for them.

Celebration of holidays was always a large part of my upbringing: big family dinners, religious and cultural festivals, and annual traditions like pumpkin carving, or sending cards or gifts... But now that I'm married and making these sort of decisions anew, it's interesting what my husband and I do and don't do. This year for Halloween we were sick, so we didn't do much of anything, but I do get sentimental when I stop and think about what Day of the Dead & All Souls Day mean - in general, and to those people holding a candle for someone they love and miss.

As I think about making greeting cards, I question the ethics of adding more paper to a landfill. I ask myself: Why do people still send cards? Why do they like to receive them? Do they?

I don't really have the answers, but I guess I like the concentrated thought - the effort of selecting a card or sitting down to write a message. I think that moment, right before the pen hits the paper, might be the most important. But so is following through -- letting the person know that you thought of them.

So, in a similar way, I loved the idea of a procession and community-made altars. Each time a person laid down a marigold, it was in someone's name. Before the whole dancing parade of skull-painted faces began, there were people in a community talking about their altars and holding photographs, and wanting to celebrate the beautiful lives of those who are no longer here.

I think next year maybe I'll work on my own altar at home.

My camera doesn't do well at night, but here's a bit of what I came up with: