Explaining Dia De Los Muertos to My Daughter.

Explaining Dia de Los Muertos to my children

My roots are deep but cold and frail.

They remain unseen.

These roots that hide, grow warm on days like these.

For the life I lived today will be remembered yet again tomorrow,
and my roots will warm once more.
I wrote the following post a few weeks before Dia De Los Muertos.  It took me that long to decide whether I should post it or not. It is personal and a little bit sad, but it’s also one of the biggest reasons why I should have been celebrating Dia De Los Muertos a long time ago. It took me some time to finish this post because I wanted to put a picture of our Altar with it, but that took longer to complete than I thought it would.  I wish that I could say that our Altar was a traditional one with all the right elements (and for the most it is), but in truth, the whole process has mostly helped me grow and appreciate my heritage and passed relatives more than anything.  That and explaining Dia de Los Muertos to my daughter was a little tricky because I didn’t want to cry.

Building our Altar brought on a number of emotions that I had forgotten about and put away for so long.  Each time I would pass by to reflect or add something to it, another memory would strike the right chord in my heart that reminded me how important cultural traditions and rituals are, and how preserving them brings a sense of fulfillment to ones soul.  For most of my life I never understood that.  So I guess you could say this was, and continues to be, an educational process as well as a healing one.

This year will be our first year celebrating Dia De Los Muertos.  I have spoken to my daughter a little about it and tried to simplify the purpose as much as possible.  She knows we are looking for pictures of her Grandmother, her father’s Grandparents, and that we bought candles for them, but not much more than that.  I’ve been slowly bringing up little bits here and there but have not yet sat with her and explained why we’ll be celebrating it this year, until today.

Heres how our conversation went…

Me:  Grace, today I want to talk to you about a Mexican holiday called Dia De Los Muertos.  Do you know what that means in Spanish?
G:  (nods no)
Me:  In English it means Day of the Dead.  It’s a celebration for the people we love that have died.  We are going to have a small party for them so they know that we still love them and remember them.
G:  Oh.  Like the guy i saw die in the ice?
Me:  What guy?
G:  The guy that died in the ice.  I feel so bad for him and his family.
Me:  When did you see a guy die in the ice?
G:  On the TV with daddy.
Me:  (hiding the frustration of my husbands addiction to TV), Oh I’ll have to ask Daddy about that.  I didn’t know you saw that happen.  That is sad.
G:  Yeah.  He fell in the ice and died.  I feel so bad for him Mommy.  Can we make a picture for him too?
Me:  Sure I suppose we can.  But before we do that I want to talk to you about this little guy  who we’ll also be having the party for ( I showed her a picture of my brother who passed away when he was just under two months old).
G:  This baby died?
Me:  Yes.
G:  But babies can’t die (by now she had a puzzled and curious look on her face).
Me:  Actually, they can.  It doesn’t happen a lot, but sometimes they do.  And this baby was my brother.
G:  (now looking at me) But why did he die?
Me:  When he was born his heart wasn’t strong enough to keep his body alive so he had to go back to heaven.
G:  Why?
Me:  Well, you know how sometimes we listen to each other’s hearts and it sounds like this (insert pumping heart sound here)?  Well when he went for a doctors visit, the doctor listened to his heart and heard it differently.  So when they checked him again, they found out his heart grew different than ours and it couldn’t be fixed.
G:  (Quiet for a moment)
G:  Why the hospital didn’t give him a new heart?
Me:  Because our bodies are all made different.  We would need a perfect match just like a puzzle piece.  And that is VERY hard to find because there is only one heart that we were born with.  Hearts are only made when adult Mommies grow babies in their tummies (now I’m wondering if that was too much information).
G:  (Quiet again, looking at his picture)
G:  You were sad?
Me:  Yes.  Very sad.  And your Nana and Grandpa were more sad.
G:  (sad face now)  Well, can I see a picture when he died?
Me:  No.  We didn’t take a picture of him when he died.
G:  Why?
Me:  Because we like to remember how he looked when he was alive.  It hurts our hearts too much to see him not alive.  That’s why we celebrate Dia De Los Muertos because we want to remember when the people we loved were alive.  Even though they are not alive anymore, we can still remember how happy we were to spend time with them by having a party for them.  We’ll make them some food too so if they’re spirits come visit us, they can have something to eat.
G:  Oh yeah, that’s a great idea Mommy!  (her face now lit up).  Can I make pictures for everyone?
Me:  Of course!  I think they would love that.
G: And for the guy that died in the ice?
Me:  Yes.  We can make a picture for him too.
G:  Can I go paint my nails now Mommy?
Me:  (now laughing)  Yes.  We’ll make pictures after.
That’s about all I could bear to tell her.  Anything else might have confused her.  I’m sure more questions will come up later on.
One day at a time.
Read more about Dia De Los Muertos at these websites.
What is Day of The Dead or Dia De Los Muertos and how do we celebrate?
Dia De Los Muertos History

by Stephanie Chavez

Author & Content Creator for Spanglish Spoon.

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