Dia De Los Muertos.

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We recently moved into a Halloween crazed neighborhood up here in the hills. There are only a few thousand people in the area and it seems that all of them trick-or-treat on my street. My neighbor literally has a pirate ship in her yard along with cannons that blow "smoke". Across the street, the elderly couple (who can barely walk), had their daughter come over and put up orange pumpkin lights, scary masks and a large inflatable black cat that moves its head. There will be dance performances by local troupes in various cul de sacs (all to Thriller I'm guessing). I kid you not. We are told that we need 1000 pieces of candy. Ouch. That's expensive.  And it makes practicing what I preach about fair trade chocolate cost prohibitive for us. So I'll be giving out slave chocolate damn it. [I cringe every time I think about it. More on slave chocolate in a separate post.] Fortunately local businesses collect candy for us since no one else in town gets much action --but I'm not sure how much.

So what am I doing? Or, what have I been spending every 'free' and non-free moment doing for the past few weeks? Making stuff. It's been so much fun and slightly insane and obsessive (but that's not surprising, is it?).  Jason is shocked every evening as I pull out my latest creation. Of course I'm mostly just re-working ideas that I find on the internet and pin on Pinterest, but I'm learning a lot of cool stuff. For example: how to use fusible interfacing with felt on owl wings and how to keep an active baby away from my hour's work of paper flowers without losing them and having to do the whole thing again (I haven't fully accepted this yet, I'm still looking for that bag. I fear it's found a new home at the dump).
image credit: associated press
I fell in love with the Day of the Dead when I lived in Mexico 10 years ago. On November 1st and 2nd (All Saints and All Souls Day respectively) the tradition is to create altars (ofrendas) to honor your deceased. The idea is that the dead will come back for a visit. It's a happy day with comical dancing skeletons and smiling calaveras (skulls). There are fiestas at the cemetaries, loaves of pan de muerte, golden marigolds and paper flowers everywhere. It seems like such a healthy way to look at death and the act of making an altar has been therapeutic for me since my mom died four years ago on October 30th.

El Dia de los Muertos has Aztec origins in Mexico, but was catholicized when the Spanish conquered the country. I find it so interesting that cultures across the world celebrate a similar holiday with nearly the same meaning. It coincides with the cross quarter day-- we will be half-way between the fall equinox and the winter solstice right around Halloween and the Day of the Dead. In Celtic Pagan traditions the high holiday is called Samhain and is based on the same idea: that the 'veil between the worlds' is thin and the dead may come back for a visit. Isn't that cool? I love it. 

Here is what I've been making (or will be in the next few days): A colony of black bat sillouhettes for inside the house, painted and decoupaged bottles, paper marigolds and other flowers (which I guess now I'll be re-making), an owl costume for the baby and a frog costume for the toddler, a large painted banner for the garage, pumpkins yet to be carved, a skeleton dressed up like a nurse to honor my mom, tiny painted plastic skeletons, mason jars with faces....the list goes on.  These are just the inspiration photos. I'll post the photos of my actual results next week. We're going to have a photo booth set up out front for trick-or-treaters (I had to talk Jasona into this, but he's finally agreed that it's a cool idea).

What else? I commissioned 2 dozen tamales from a local Mexican woman, ordered Pan de Muerte from the bakery (I was originally going to make both, but decided that I might severely stress myself out). Instead I'm only cooking 1 dozen sweet corn tamales, gluten free halloween cookies, and champurrado (Mexican hot yummy drink).

Oh, and for my own costume? It will be similar to this (but I'll be wearing traditional Mexican garb):

[Photo credits: Martha Stewart, Country Living, Flickr: Amyr_81, DeviantArt: Docophoto}


  1. I can't wait to see the pictures. It's going to be so cool. I wish we were up there with you guys.

    P.S. I think the photo booth is an amazing idea. I'm so glad Jason is on board.

  2. I wish you were going to be here too, Desi--To toast the dead with me and also to help finnie not be so scared on halloween night!


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