Back in the day, when I was in elementary school, we looked forward to Halloween. We looked forward to candy, class parties, dressing up in fun (and funny) costumes, candy, trick-or-treating, candy, scary stories, candy, scary movies, and of course–it’s all about the candy! I still love Halloween! I still love candy! I am still totally down with all things creepy, scary, and done in memory of the dead.
It wasn’t until I was in high school and had a rather confused substitute teacher for an English class (the teacher taught both Spanish and Junior and Senior English, but everyone wound up watching Spanish videos) that I found out about the Days of the Dead, celebrated in Mexico. I still recall the opening sentence of the video, because many years later, substituting for a different Spanish teacher, I had to show it to some students when she was out on a personal day around Halloween (“Los Dias de los Muertos est el celebracion de muertos y vida. . .”). Just as the video states, it is a celebration of both life and death, and I find it to be a really beautiful tradition, full of food, family, fun, celebration and reverential remembrance of those who have passed on. In fact, the only tradition I can recall (which almost no one celebrates anymore, unless they are from an old, staunchly traditional European home) is the dumb supper, in which one sets out food and drink for the dead, then leaves it from midnight to morning so that the dead may feast. Some Catholic churches may still hold masses for All Saints and All Souls Days, but if they do it around here, I’ve never been. Sure would like to go, though. . .
Here are some links to some good, solid information on Days of the Dead festivities:
http://artswork.asu.edu — Click on either Teachers or Students, then follow prompts for historical and art activities.
If anyone out there knows of any stuff I missed, please send ’em my way so I can run an addendum!