Better late than never, say I! We don’t celebrate the Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead here in the UK. We have a minute’s silence on Rememberance Sunday (9th November this year), for those who died during the Great Wars… or any war. If you click on the “Dia de Bloglandia” button – to the right – you’ll find links to lots of marvellous sites featuring this subject>
When we lived in Spain the last time, we were there for 5 years and lived in 2 small villages. The community was very close and everyone knew everyone (and their business!!), but we all helped each other. These people were not what you would consider typical Spaniards – fiestas, siestas, etc. No, they were Catalans – Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, so you know where I am talking about… They have their own proper language, complete with a grammatical structure, which is highly complex. A lot of Spanish people struggle to learn Catalan, as did I. Our DD was 3 when she entered the village school – total of 29 kids between 3 and 12 years of age! That was the main reason I learnt to speak Catalan.
Their customs were completely different too, as was the food, attitude and culture! My DH (stubborn man, and no linguist) never got his head round the language and merely retorted that we were in Spain, so he’d continue to speak Spanish! The Day of the Dead was a Public Holiday (Festa), and those who had passed were honoured and remembered with affection. There were shrines in homes and bars, graves were decked with fresh flowers and a special Mass was held in the local church.
We witnessed a fair amount of funerals during that time and the biggest difference to the UK was the laying out of the body, in the coffin at home, so everyone could pay their respects before the burial – which was very quick – within a week of death being certified. It makes sense in the hot summer to do that really…
Then, everyone would tell their family, friends and neighbours when the funeral was. The Funeral Director and the Priest would head the procession from home to church ahead of the coffin, followed by the mourners. Everyone would stand in their doorway or at the closest crossroads to where they’d pass and clap solemnly as the deceased was taken to the church. It was very moving and I think it’s a wonderful way to honour and celebrate the life they left behind, not their death. Just a different way of seeing their passing…
Here’s a small photo of my Mother and I to honour her passing – I was only 23 in that photo and she died the year after, aged only 63. Not a day goes by without me thinking about her.
My mother was from Berlin (Britz) and I grew up in a multicultural home! I spoke better German than English at one point in my childhood, though I’ve not spoken it for some time now. I expect her genes are responsible for me being gifted as a linguist. She spoke English beautifully, though she never completely lost her accent… and she loved ‘naughty’ words, although half the time she had no idea what she was saying!!
Well now I’m just rambling, but I was asked to write a bit about my experiences of the way the Catalans honour their loved ones on this Day – hence this post! Here are a few altered bamboo doms which typify my attitude to the Dia de los Muertos!
Images: Lisa Vollrath’s TenTwo Studios