The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and Brazil, November 2, 2019.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. It has become a national symbol and as such is taught (for educational purposes) in the nation’s schools. Many families celebrate a traditional “All Saints’ Day” associated with the Catholic Church.
Halloween is a fun celebration mostly for children to dress as ghosts and ghouls and delightfully spook neighbors. The Day of the Dead is more personal and familial. It’s aimed at remembering the departed, the loved and unloved.
And why not celebrate our dead, remember, and commemorate?
Your reasons need not be religious or cultural. Reasons can be found in the origin of the words, commemorate, memorable, memorial, remember, and memory itself. The Latin root for these is memor, meaning “mindful”, and the Greek word mermēra, meaning “care”.
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary
We remember to be mindful of and to care for the dead. Just one day, before we forget again.
Gone And Forgotten.
Obsessed with the here and now, the new and the better, we forget the past and the departed. It’s as though we suffer mass-amnesia.
Prolific intellectual, art critic, and poet, Clive James addressed this in his tome Cultural Amnesia, published in 2007.
Shining a light on the legacies of public figures that have shaped the culture and thinking of this century, James’ central idea of the book is that cultural amnesia is a deficit that touches us all in the Western world. He traces the origins of forgetting to the mass-trauma and ongoing grief of World War 2. We are compelled to forget the inhumanity of the Holocaust, and yet, in doing so, we are impoverished both culturally and personally.
This shared forgetting causes us to neglect the history that created our here and now, the cosmic soup in which we all swim.
We neglect to even know of the public lives whose legacies we benefit from, whether by liberation, peace, beauty, or empowerment. We forget our teachers, those accessible gurus who lit our path. In a hurry to become the teacher, we overlook rightful homage to the blessings bestowed upon us. We forget grandparents and ancestors who created us, whose essence and, to an extent, superficial characteristics and temperament, we embody throughout our mortal lives.
We forget the past not only because of cultural amnesia caused by trauma, but because we prefer tangible, finite, knowable things. The Western world is focused on material living. Unless we seek it consciously, the unknown makes us feel insecure.
Death is a mystery. Without attention to the mysteries, we are poorer. As Joseph Campbell wrote in The Power of Myth, “It’s important to live life with the experience, and therefore the knowledge, of its mystery and of your own mystery. This gives life a new radiance, a new harmony, a new splendor.”
Radiance and splendor are essential to wellbeing. Without them, we are possessed by mundanity.
The Fecund Void.
“Into the void of silence, into the empty space of nothing, the joy of life is unfurled.”
— C. S. Lewis
The void is more than half of our conscious existence.