Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Honoring Our Ancestors

Fall is an important time of year around here as we are busy with harvesting, canning, buttoning up for the winter rains, and planting fall crops.It is also a time of year filled with various celebrations and holidays that have great significance to us. As lovers of imagination and creativity, we of course adore Halloween, but it is also a time that we pay tribute to our ancestors and to our loved ones who have passed in the last year by celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

Although my husband's family is Mexican, they no longer celebrate the Day of the Dead. This tradition probably died out in his family as they attempted to assimilate into U.S. culture. My mother-in-law was born in this country, but she was raised speaking Spanish. The 1950s California education system was not kind to children who continued to speak their mother tongue and she was often beaten for communicating in her native language. In order to survive, assimilation was of the utmost importance.

We reclaimed this colorful celebration for the benefit of our daughter, as we think it is a wonderful way to open up dialogue about death. Though my husband and I are self proclaimed atheists, choosing not to believe in a supreme deity or deities, we do not lack a sense of spirituality or cultivation of the inner life of the self as one might assume. The fact of death is something we would prefer our child to come to terms with rather than fear. Reflecting on this is part of what you might call our spiritual practice. And what better time to contemplate this rite of passage, but in the season when crops wither back into the belly of their mother, trees shed signs of life, and the glow of summer leaves us for the dark. Here are some photos of our festivities.

This is our altar to our ancestors and loved ones who have passed. 

Ute and I made Pan de Muerto for the first time and it turned out great. I wanted to bake Frida Kahlo's version, but it required a dozen eggs! With only Sweet Pea laying, that wasn't going to happen.On another note, while watching a video on the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, we saw a quote graffiti-ed on a wall "We eat from the earth and so in return, it eats us." Something to chew on with the yummy bread.

Every year, Ute and I get all gussied up for San Francisco's Day of the Dead procession. We love the ceremony, something that is often missing for us non church-goers.


  1. Beautiful Heidi & Ute! Dia de Los Muertos provides such a meaningful way to recognize from where we come and get some orientation on where we are going. There is a lovely Hindu observance that does this as well, Pitri-Paksha.

  2. Love Dia de Los Muertos! Watsonville, where I live, used to have a great procession but it has gone away. So sad. I am going to have to come up to SF for yours next year! You grrls look fabulous!

  3. you two are beautiful, as always.

  4. A wonderful thing, creating traditions for a family. I enjoy things like that. Recipe for the bread, please? Great blog. Glad I found it.