Fall is my favorite season and October is my favorite month. Growing up in Kansas, October was when the leaves started changing, and the air gets crisp but not cold. There’s apple cider, roasted pumpkin seeds, red and golden leaves falling, and pumpkins everywhere. There are Halloween parties with hayrides, hay mazes, and bobbing for apples. Living in the desert for the last 30 years, I truly miss a Midwest fall; and it’s pretty hard to get excited about trick-or-treating at Halloween when it’s still 100 degrees out. While the rest of the country is getting their scarfs, jackets, and boots out, and Pumpkin Spice Latte fixes, we are still in shorts, flip flops and on the lookout for an iced PSL. This year, we will be getting the best of both worlds. We are going to Wisconsin for a good old pumpkin patch adventure and cold (for us) weather. But we will be back in Rocky Point in time to celebrate Día de Los Muertos!
October in Rocky Point is the beginning of cooler weather, less humidity, and shrimp season! So yes, October is still my favorite month living here! We also love celebrating Día de Los Muertos. In fact, this year, my 9-year-old said that she actually likes going to the Día de Los Muertos festivities on Rodeo Drive better than trick-or-treating. I mean what’s not to love, they have beautiful ofrendas on display, a Catrina parade, sugar skull face painting, cotton candy and other dulces, grilled elotes, and much more.
Thanks to movies like “Coco”, Día de los Muertos has been brought to children all over the world. Día de los Muertos is a three-day celebration of the cycle of life, and a reminder that death is part of the journey of life, not the end. On October 31, Día de las Brujas is the beginning of the Day of the Dead festivities. November 1 is All Saints Day, or Día de los Inocentes, when children’s spirits, los angelitos (little angels) are celebrated. November 2 is All Souls Day, or Day of the Dead where families take food and festivity to the cemetery where they pray, reminisce, and tell funny stories about all their loved ones who have passed. Monarch butterflies are also an important symbol for Day of the Dead. The Monarch butterfly migration arrives in Mexico every year between November 1 and 2, so they are believed to be carrying the spirits of the dead, arriving at the same time each year, on El Día de los Muertos.
To celebrate Día de los Muertos you can make an Ofrenda (or altar) to honor your loved ones and provide them with what they need on their spiritual journey. Pictures of the deceased, along with items that belonged to them, or objects that are a reminder of their lives, are placed on the ofrenda. Calaveras or Sugar Skulls are a traditional item. A loved one’s favorite foods are prepared and set out for them, as well as their favorite drinks including cerveza and tequila, and sometimes even cigarettes or cigars are lit. Toys are placed on the ofrendas for children who have passed. Marigolds and their bright fragrant petals are placed on ofrendas and around graves to make a path to lead the spirit’s home.
Every ofrenda includes the four elements:
Earth, which is represented by Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) a sweet bread roll, usually with skulls and crossbones depicted on top.
Fire, which is symbolized by candles that are placed to help light the way for the spirits.
Water, so the spirits can quench their thirst. Salt in a clay bowl, or around the ofrenda to purify the visiting spirits
Wind, which is symbolized by Papel Picado, colorful tissue paper with intricately cut designs.
If you are in town from October 31 to November 2, I highly recommend coming to the Día de Los Muertos celebration. Also, you may want to bring down some extra bags of candy, as many restaurants and businesses will hand out candy to local children on Halloween, and they will gladly accept candy donations.