Today I want to share a Holiday that is very dear to my heart, Dia de Los Muertos. A time to reflect on the loved ones we have lost, celebrate their lives and rejoice in knowing their legacy will be carried on with our children. Sugar skulls and Cempasúchil (marigolds) are a placed on the Altar to honor the dead. With my familia being in town for an extended Halloween Fiesta we took the chance to explain this Holiday to the children. As the kids worked on making papel picado and handmade marigolds my mom spoke of this Holiday’s rich history. To end the evening on a sweet note instead of sugar skulls I baked one of my favorite chocolate cakes in shape of a skull.
Dia de Los Muertos is an ancient Aztec celebration of death, the bittersweet companion to life. All life must come to an end, so why not celebrate death as we do life? As the Europeans arrived in Mexico, both the Catholic religion and the Aztec celebration intertwined. Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated on from October 31 to November 2. In these days the lives of our dead are celebrated. These celebrations include festivities, food, a family altar, sharing favorite stories of the deceased and joyful visits to the grave sites. In the United States families of Mexican descent are celebrating Dia de Los Muertos more and more each year, making for Dia de Los Muertos in becoming a widely popular holiday.
A Glossary for Dia de los Muertos
Altar – A display honoring departed love one, built in homes throughout Mexico each year during Day of the Dead celebrations. Offerings are placed on the altars.
La Noche de Duelo – The Night of Mourning, the beginning of Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. On this night, friends and relatives bring food, flowers, and decorations to the cemetery in a candlelight procession.
Los Angelitos – Children who have died, remembered on All Saints’ Day Nov. 1st
Ofrenda – Offerings placed on the altar, sometimes representing the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Earth is represented by food placed at the altar; air is symbolized by papel picado, elaborate paper cutouts that flutter on the breeze. fire is represented in scented candles that decorate the altar, and water is often left in a bowl. Other offerings include personal mementos of the deceased.
Our family celebrates this yearly tradition with a week long celebration of honoring our loved ones with a family altar. In our altar we showcase favorite family photos of our departed, papel picado, candy skulls, flowers and personal mementos. Tiny sculptures of their favorite food or beverage made of Alfeniquen are also placed on the altar. During this festive week we as a family recreate their favorite meals to enjoy as we share their lives with our children. This week long celebration fills my heart with great joy as I honor my departed all while introducing my children to loved ones they were not fortunate to meet. As my children grow they will in turn gain knowledge of their heritage and begin learning how to cope with future loss as our altar continues the addition of family members. I hope when they are adults they will learn to celebrate death as part of life, knowing that each year on Dia de Los Muertos our departed with return to shower us with love.
from MI Chita’sMexican Chocolate Dessert Recipes
by Teresa Cordero Cordell and Robert Cordell
6 eggs separated
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350
lightly grease and dust with cocoa powder 2 cake pans (9inch). (skull pan)
combine flour, cocoa, baking powder in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl combine milk and vanilla.
Beat the 6 eggs whites until stiff.
Reduce speed and gradually ad the brown sugar to beaten egg whites.
After sugar dissolves add yolks and beat for three minutes.
On medium low speed, alternate flour and milk mixture to eggs until blended.
Pour equally into prepared cakes pans.
bake 30 to 35 minutes.
Serve with sweet whipped topping or ice cream.
Source: Amazon for skull pan