Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pink Saturday - Pink for Dias de Los Muertos

Pink Saturday - Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you!

This weekend is the Mexican and Latino holiday Dias de Los Muertos, or the Days of the Dead.

It is celebrated on November 1, which is the Catholic holiday All Saints' Day, and on November 2, which is All Souls' Day. Family and friends gather and remember friends and relatives who've passed away. People build altars in their homes and businesses, decorating them with traditional symbols, food and flowers, and with personal items that help remember their departed loved ones.

People go to the cemetery to clean gravesites and leave offerings on their loved-ones' graves. These offerings might be favorite foods and beverages; treats the lost one enjoyed, or photos and tokens. You might bring a toy to the grave of a child, or a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of tequila to the grave of someone who enjoyed those pleasures.

Floral decorations always include bright orange marigolds, called "cempasĂșchitl" originally named cempoalxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty (i.e., many) flowers," and bright magenta Celosia cristata, or cockscombs.

I was driving through Koreatown today, on Olympic Boulevard near Vermont, and a whole lot of fire engines raced up behind me, lights flashing and sirens blaring. There happened to be an empty parking space, so I pulled in and let them pass. A few blocks beyond, down the hill, they all converged and traffic was choked.

So I put some quarters in the meter and got out to walk around. Like much of L.A., this neighborhood is multicultural. One ethnic group may dominate, but not monolithically. The strip mall tenants are Thai, Chinese, Salvadoran, Mexican, Oaxacan, Korean and corporate American.

This leads to some interesting juxtapositions, like this one above. Where would you rather get a taco - Taco Bell, or La Adelita taco truck with the beautifully painted landscape on the side?

After I had my taco al pastor, I noticed the traffic was moving again, so I walked back toward my car. And I walked right past a van parked along the sidewalk, with flowers displayed in buckets.

They were bouquets of the traditional Dias de Los Muertos flowers, marigolds and cockscombs. How much? I asked the seller. Four dollars for a bunch of marigolds, five dollars for the celosia.

How can you beat that? So I brought them home, and this afternoon I set up our Dias de Los Muertos altar on my kitchen counter. It was good to bring the little figures out of the cupboard where they'd been since last year.

Here's my altar. Look at those gorgeous flowers!

One of the most popular symbols of the holiday is the skull, or skeleton. These images are not intended to be gruesome or scarey, but rather to remind us that death comes to all of us someday. There are figures and cartoons of elegant ladies and gentlemen, or people in the occupations they held in life - but as skeletons, to underscore the fate that awaits us. Skulls are molded from sugar, ceramic, or chocolate, and emblazoned with the names of the dead we hope to remember.

There is a special bread, sweetened and flavored with orange peel and anise, and enriched with eggs, that people eat with hot chocolate or champurrado, a warm drink made with masa flour and flavored with cinnamon. This bread is called pan de muerto - bread of the dead - and it's decorated with bits of shaped dough or icing to look like bones, another reminder of the circle of life and death.

I get my pan de muerto at a little Oaxacan bakery on Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica - I'll be picking mine up on Saturday morning. Here's a picture of the loaf I got last year:

This one is made in the Oaxacan style; with piped icing in intricate designs, sprinkled with nonpareils. There's a tiny halo'ed saint doll baked inside.

Enjoy your holiday this weekend, whether you celebrate Halloween or Dias de Los Muertos! If you'd like to see the celebration we enjoyed last year, click here.

Seriously - how could anyone go to Taco Bell?


Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

love your altar - wonderful little treasures you have there! and the flowers are just beautiful!

Chris V. said...

love the skellies! day of the dead has such great decorations!

Happy Halloween and Happy Pink Saturday!
Chris Verstraete
Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystey - bff's, a missing mini painting and a nosy Dachshund = a fun kid's mystery!

Chris V. said...

love the skellies! day of the dead has such great decorations!

Happy Halloween and Happy Pink Saturday!
Chris Verstraete
Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystey - bff's, a missing mini painting and a nosy Dachshund = a fun kid's mystery!

someplace in thyme said...

Oh that looks like so much fun. The colors of the flowers are by far my favorites, all so rich and gorgeous. I hope you enjoy it all and have a Happy Pink Saturday and Happy Halloween, Char

Gabriela said...

Happy Pink Saturday and Happy Halloween!

Lovely post! Love all your treasures.

~ Gabriela ~

Mary said...

I loved your post today. I made pan de muerto for my blog earlier in the week. This is a very interesting celebration. I hope you are having a wonderful Pink Saturday.

Kate said...

So cool that you can partake in the the festivities of Dia de los Muertos. When I lived in Tejas, this was a big deal. Seattle? Not so much.
Enjoy! Love these photos.

Happy Halloween too!

phd in yogurtry said...

Oh, do I have a potent memory of cockscomb. One day I'll post.

Light and Voices said...

Happy Halloween!
Joyce M

cactus petunia said...

Happy halloween! Marigolds are very hard to get in Portland this time of year, but after I carve my pumpkin I'll set up our altar, too. Thanks for sharing the traditions!

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

This was really interesting. I'm aware of the celebration, but didn't exactly understand it. It is certainly different than Halloween...more depth and thought I'd say. The flowers are gorgeous. Oh, to be able to buy flowers on the street corner. Lucky you.


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Beverly said...

Glennis, I love that you celebrate this holiday. I've always thought it is a wonderful tradition.

Your altar looks wonderful! Happy Pink Saturday.

Life with Kaishon said...

Your pink Saturdays truly delight me!

Free Games said...
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