Dia De Los Muertos

This Sunday our Youth and Family Ministry will be presenting the service, Dia De Los Muertos or The Day of the Dead. This holiday traces its earliest roots to the Aztec people in what is now central Mexico. The Aztecs used skulls to honor the dead a millennium before the Day of the Dead celebrations emerged.

Once the Spanish conquered the Aztec empire in the 16th century, the Catholic Church moved indigenous celebrations and rituals honoring the dead to the Catholic dates commemorating All Saints Day and All Souls Day on November 1 and 2.  November 1 is to honor children who had died.

Today some of the traditions are to create altars with ofrendas, offerings to their loved ones’ souls. Candles light photos of the deceased and items left behind. Families read letters and poems and tell anecdotes and jokes about the dead. Offerings of tamales, chiles, water, tequila and pan de muerto, a specific bread for the occasion, are lined up by bright orange or yellow cempasúchil flowers, marigolds, whose strong scent helps guide the souls home.

Copal incense, used for ceremonies back in ancient times, is lit to draw in the spirits. Clay molded sugar skulls are painted and decorated with feathers, foil and icing, with the name of the deceased written across the foreheads. Altars include all four elements of life: water, the food for earth, the candle for fire, and for wind, papel picado, colorful tissue paper folk art with cut out designs to stream across the altar or the wall.  (Resource: https://dayofthedead.holiday/history/)

Here at Unity of Austin we have been setting up an altar for many years, even during Covid.  A way to honor those who are no longer physically with us, a way to let the healing of that loss to begin, and a reminder of the gifts that were given to us by our loved one(s) presence in our lives. This can be a deeply spiritual and family-bonding experience.  I hope you will join us and bring a picture and/or a memento and place it on the altar. Although I recommend you keep the tequila at home and substitute with Topo Chico!

Love, Light & Sparkles,
Rev. Carol


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