Last year Allan and I vowed to make a Day of the Dead alter for Allan's mother who passed away 2 years ago. This would include a picture of her, making an arch to symbolize the passage from life to death, a glass of water to represent life and purity and to quench thirst, candles to represent life and hope and to guide the journey, and lastly flowers, preferably marigolds who's bright color and fragrance is synonymous with Day of the Dead, to represent the impermanence of life. This alter would be assembled on a table in our house and kept maybe for a few weeks. Of course constructing an alter requires proper planning and commitment and some forethought - of which we had none this year. Given our wild Halloween the day before which included us dancing on a bar, Allan spent most of Day of the Dead recuperating in bed while I went with some friends to the XCaret theme park to partake in the festivities. So instead of remembering our deceased loved ones we essentially did nothing to commemorate their lives besides me having a little fun at a theme park.
XCaret holds an annual Day of the Dead celebration spanning 4 days which includes Mexican celebrities reciting poetry and stories, dancing shows, painting your face like a skeleton, eating delicious local food like tomales and churros and enjoying a bit of local culture. It's become a tradition for us to visit the park and experience a bit of culture in our beach side oasis. I wouldn't say it made me think of my dead loved ones anymore, but it did add a bit of excitement and fun to my evening.
We walked around the gorgeous park, enjoying all the kids and adults made up with black and white makeup to look like skeletons. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to participate I visited one of the many free makeup booths to do my face as well. The sites, sounds and smells at XCaret are also remarkable. Right when you enter the scent of copal hits your nostrils, an incense used to clear negative energy and to help the dead find their way. In the background music and poetry dance in the night sky. Dancers in colorful costumes spin on various stages while a myriad of both natives and tourists enjoy the all inclusive activities.
By the end of the evening we were exhausted from all the various forms of stimulation. Hopefully next year we will make an alter or visit a grave site to help us really reconnect with the dearly departed and contemplate the true meaning of Day of the Dead. Like Christmas it's easy to get caught up in all the commercialization and fun and loose track of the real significance of the holiday. Regardless of one's cultural or religious denomination, I think it's still crucial to think about the substance behind traditions.
Playa del Carmen vacation rental condo and villas
|Merchandise for sale at XCaret|
|Alter for Miguel Hidalgo, a priest who started the revolution against Spain and served as Mexico's first president.|
|Some sort of alter to Mexico|
|I try to get into the festivities by painting my face, albeit poorly.|
|James poses with a women in traditional Mayan wear and a sign indicating the area for food.|
|Ladies in traditional Mayan wear make food.|
|A skeleton kissing a skeleton|
|Skeletons made from powdered sugar|
A gentleman explains (in Spanish) how he makes the sugar skeletons.
It's hard to hear him with the background noise, but still worth sharing.