Saturday, November 01, 2014


I grew up Catholic and every year we celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Or more accurately: we justified having big honking Halloween Celebrations because the days are all so close:  October 31st, November 1st (All Saints) and November 2nd (All Souls).  If you're not Catholic and you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a quick summary from wikipedia.

All Souls' Day is a day of prayer for the dead, particularly but not exclusively one's relatives. In Western Christianity the annual celebration is now held on 2 November and is associated with All Saints' Day (1 November) and its vigil, Hallowe'en (31 October).[2] In the liturgical books of the western Catholic Church (theLatin Church) it is called The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, and is celebrated annually on 2 November, even if this date falls on a Sunday.[3] In Anglicanism it is called Commemoration of All Faithful Departed and is an optional celebration.[4] In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the associated Eastern Catholic Churches, it is celebrated several times during the year and is not associated with the month of November.
Some believe that the origins of All Souls' Day in European folklore and folk belief are related to customs ofancestor veneration[15] practised worldwide, through events such as the Chinese Ghost Festival, the JapaneseBon Festival. The Roman custom was that of the Lemuria.

If you live in Texas, or grew up here, you'll recognize that these days also coincide with Dia de los Muertos aka Day of the Dead.  Also from wiki:

The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the triduum of AllhallowtideAll Hallows' EveHallowmas, and All Souls' Day.

To me, the fact that the Catholic holiday and the Mexican holiday fall on exactly the same days and celebrate just about the same thing isn't much of a coinkidink, though both traditions go back centuries from different parts of the world. If you do a minimal amount of digging around, you'll find that there are traditions of honoring the dead in just about any culture you can think of.  Catholics, though, other than the requisite Halloween All Souls Festivals have a special mass, you say some extra prayers, light some candles. Dia de los Muertos, however, is on a completely different level. 

  During the three-day period families usually clean and decorate graves;[4] most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas (altars)...Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or "the little angels"), and bottles of tequilamezcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave.Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of dead"), and sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased.[4]  . Pillows and blankets are left out so the deceased can rest after their long journey... these sometimes feature Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, scores of candles and an ofrenda. Traditionally, families spend some time around the altar, praying and telling anecdotes about the deceased. 

So here I am:  a recovering Catholic living in a state right next to Mexico and not only that, but  my mom's birthday would have been today, November 1st.  Our first without her. I'd like to say that attending a mass in her honor would be enough for me, but I'd be lying if I did.  It occurred to me that spending some time putting together some things that she would like if her soul came to visit would be a nice way to remember her on this day. Now, I don't pretend to believe my mom's ghost is gonna show up on Saturday and sit down with me for a nice chat, but if she did... if She Did..

My "ofrenda" maybe doesn't look super authentic, but let's get real: If I had festooned this thing with papel picado and incense,  Bonnie would have given me the side-eye.  I also didn't use marigolds, which are pretty standard, but honestly, they don't smell all that great.  I  did make sure to put a few of her favorite things:  white chocolate truffles and dark chocolate kisses,  iced coffee, a long letter with pictures telling her what everyone in the family has been up to since she passed (so much! so, so much, it's amazing how much happens in 6mths, you don't realize til you have to share it with someone who didn't see it). Some of her favorite Barry Manilow songs on the ipod. And some things that remind me of her: a necklace she gave me, one of the crocheted ornaments my sister in law made for her that she decorated her Christmas tree with for eight straight years, photographs, and since it's her birthday, some cake. 

It's fine if you think it's a little weird or a little hoo-doo-ey. It's not for you. It's for me. I think about and miss my mom every single day. She's been gone for almost 6 months and it hasn't even begun to hurt less. The only thing that changes is that I find different ways to deal with it that don't involve bursting into tears and making other people uncomfortable. And I gotta tell you, putting this together, remembering the little things she liked, thinking about what I'd like to tell her if her soul, for just one day, came back to visit... It was nice. And if you knew her, you'd know she would've liked that. 

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