Day of the Dead – Honoring our community through cultural traditions
By Alejandra Guzmán @aleguzman
Click aqui para español- > Rindamos honor a nuestra comunidad a través de tradiciones culturales
November is one of my favorite months in New Orleans. The weather is spectacular during this month and there is a rich cultural calendar. Although many of the big events and festivals typically programmed for this time of year have been affected by the pandemic, this should not stop us from finding creative ways to enjoy cultural traditions.
Whether or not we can attend an event there are many original ways we can celebrate and thus keep Latin culture present during this month.
My favorite example of one of the cultural events held during November is the Mexican festival known as the Day of the Dead. During these festivities, families pay tribute to their deceased friends and family. Through a series of activities, they welcome their souls through a celebration that includes their favorite meals, drinks, and belongings. This festival is celebrated between the 1st and 2nd day of November and it is believed that during this time the border between the spiritual world and the real world dissolves. The souls of the dead return to the world of the living to feast, drink, dance, and play music with their loved ones.
To honor this tradition, many communities in the United States organize festivities that include key symbols of this holiday and invite the community at large to celebrate. Although there were many events around the Day of the Dead canceled, there are fun ways to celebrate. A good idea is to create an altar of the dead in our homes. The tradition includes honoring our ancestors by putting photos of our family members and deceased and decorating with minced paper. The chopped paper refers to cut decorative paper that is used throughout Mexico for multiple parties. During the Day of the Dead celebration, this paper is placed around the edges of the altar to add color.
Another way to celebrate is with the traditional bread of the dead. This traditional bread is one of the foods most associated with the Day of the Dead. It is often placed on the altar, but you can also enjoy it at any time with coffee or hot chocolate!
In New Orleans, there are establishments that sell it or if you prefer, you can make your own bread. The internet is full of recipes to fulfill this mission. Another tradition that can become a fun family activity is a traditional verse composition written especially for this season. They are usually satirical stories that mock people in a way that suggests they are dead, even if they are alive. It’s common to find skulls in Mexican newspapers and magazines that mock celebrities and political figures.
Promoting such activities with family and friends promotes cultural diversity, is a source of inspiration for creativity, offers an educational opportunity for all, and promotes social cohesion through healthy dialogue and family fun. These are all necessary elements for healthy and prosperous communities.
To stay informed of activities either in a virtual and face-to-face format around the city, be sure to visit the VIVA NOLA events section or the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana (www.hccl.biz) website.