For Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) we went to visit Ocotepec, Morelos - a small town just north of Cuernavaca (where my family lives) - to see the ofrendas (altars) that are still a tradition there.
To prepare, during the day we went to the market to buy candles because it is customary to give a candle to each family whose home you visit. The market was packed with Day of the Dead things - sugar skulls, decorative paper, candles, and the traditional flowers for the holiday.
|Sugar (and chocolate and gummy) skulls|
|Leo loves all there is to see/smell/hear at the market|
|We may have stopped for a snack|
That evening we packed up our candles and hopped on the bus to Ocotepec. We met up with some friends at the town's church and from there we began walking around the town in search of homes that were hosting. Families that have lost someone in the last year are the ones that build the elaborate altars and invite people in. They are pretty easy to spot since there is usually a sizable line at the door of the open homes - but just in case, each home that had an alter would set off a firework every half hour or so to guide people to them.
|Waiting in line|
The entrances are elaborate - with archways, flowers, glitter and tissue paper. Signs proclaim "Welcome to your home" and the name of the deceased because the belief is that the souls of the dead are in limbo during the first year until the Day of the Dead when they go back to visit their homes before moving on.
|This entryway was made of petals, rice and sand|
The altars usually consist of the "body" (made out of food with new clothes and shoes laid on top and a large sugar skull for the head) and a picture of the person the altar is honoring There are also lots (lots!) of flowers and decorations and of course food. There is often a lot of fruit and bread, traditional foods like mole and the favorite foods of the deceased. Some have beer and/or cigarettes along with personal items.
|Welcome Mama Lola|
|Mama Lola's picture and some favorite foods|
|Jonathan was only 17|
|Favorite foods and his father accepting candles on the left|
|Beer and a futbol jersey|
|The traditional "Pan de Muertos" bread has a cross and sugar on it|
The next day the families go to mass and after the service they distribute all the food and items that were displayed on the altar among the people in the town. After that everyone goes to the graveyard to eat and decorate the graves.
It was amazing. Really. I almost didn't go because I was tired and it was past Leo's bedtime - blah, blah, blah. But I'm so glad I rallied because it was incredible. It's a tradition that's dying. Very few towns still build large alters and open their homes, although it is common for people to have a small altar in their homes in honor people they have lost with favorite foods and flowers to attract the souls. I hope Ocotepec is still known for it's ofrendas when Leo is old enough to understand the significance of the tradition. I'd love to bring him back.