When I was 10 I collected animal bones found on forest excursions. I dissected owl pellets for tiny bones, rescued crayfish shells, and saved bones found in fish. I wanted to be an archaeologist. I loved the past and relished those field trips to Heritage Hill or family vacations that included a stop at Olde Fort Williams. I have always had a fascination with skeletons and the people of the past (and very open-minded parents).
When I started learning Spanish and became acquainted with Día de los Muertos, it was no surprise to anyone that knew me that it became one of my great interests. I started collecting calacas, calaveras and catrinas on my first visit with Pedro to meet his family. Naturally, that led me to learn about Día de los Muertos. I embraced the idea of celebrating, honoring and welcoming back the dead. It wasn’t necessarily a new concept in our family. The family members that have already passed have always been a presence in our lives. We told stories and shared memories of family members throughout the year. We kept recipes, traditions and legends alive with humor and joy. But we never did it with such flare! Here was a holiday that took my beliefs and expressed them in a way that matched my enthusiasm for the past, family and bones.
Now it is a great pleasure to introduce the holiday to my son. This year we read books like I Remember Abuelito, made sugar and chocolate skulls (in Packer colors, of course), pan de muerto, Mexican hot chocolate, and used modeling clay, paint and glitter to create out own Day of the Dead altar. While I really enjoyed crafting, cooking and reading with Paolo, the most enchanting part was that my son got it. He really understood the meaning behind Día de los Muertos. It was a safe and fun way to talk about death and those who have already died… though it was a little unsettling to hear him talk about when I would be dead and my grandchildren would remember me!
If you’d like to do any of the activities listed above, please visit www.spanglishbaby.com. They have a wonderful site full of activities, games, recipes and books. I rely on them often to incorporate Paolo’s Mexican heritage into our family life.