By Lorne Holden When I was a little girl growing up in Cleveland, the last day in October always meant two things: costumes and candy. Absurd amounts of candy. And given that the costumes were often purchased at a large chain store, Halloween became a yearly glut of consumer consumption. Buy a costume that would be cast off and never used again! Gather more candy than anyone should be allowed to eat in a year! For a kid, this was heaven.
But as I grew older and became a parent, I found myself drawn to a festival on the same date that seemed to be more grounded in connection, history, beauty and respect. This festival is Mexico's Day of the Dead.
The Day of the Dead is actually three days: October 31, November 1 and 2nd. It is celebrated widely in Mexico as well as in other countries where there is a high Mexican population. The colorful costumes and painted faces that are inspired by Day of the Dead have become iconic worldwide. We know immediately when we are looking at a scene from Day of the Dead.
While the American way of celebrating Halloween stems from a history of connection to the Celtic Harvests, the Day of the Dead has it's history in the ancient belief of celebrating the afterlife. Nowadays, the Day of the Dead reflects the original beliefs shaped by the pre-Hispanic indigenous population as well as Spanish Catholic ideas.
The Day of the Dead is Mexico's most important holiday and is a time of joy and celebration. It is literally a time when people stop to remember, talk about and cherish those they love who have died. Mexican people spend a lot of time in graveyards, cleaning gravestones of family members and leaving gifts. Also, people create ornate and colorful altars in their homes; they make and eat Pane del Muerta, a sweet bread, and create and decorate sugar skulls. It is all a wonderful and expansive celebration of taste, color and love.
This year, consider grounding your family's Halloween celebration is an activity inspired by the Day of the Dead. Creating an altar in the home or taking time to simply remember a beloved, departed family member can offer up a sense of family history and continuity. Taking time to make bread, or create ornate costumes based on Day of the Dead images can remind kids that they have what it takes within them to make this Halloween special and their own. Start a discussion about the difference between creating and consuming. Talk about what it means to remember and respect those who have come before them. Let this years celebration be more than just sweet things to eat.
Lorne Holden is an artist and the author of the bestsller "MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done." Learn more about her here: makeithappenintenminutesaday.com.