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  • Writer's picturemarti mcginnis

Celebrating Dia De Los Muertos Respectfully From A Different Heritage

In the quiet sanctum of my home deep in Mexico's central highlands, I find solace in the act of creating an ofrenda, a beautiful and intimate tribute to honor the memory of my departed loved ones. While Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition, my own heritage has instilled in me a deep appreciation for the importance of remembering and celebrating our ancestors and others who have passed. I invite you to join me on a deeply personal journey of crafting an ofrenda that blends my own cultural background with the rich tapestry of Dia de los Muertos.

The Significance of Dia de los Muertos Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican tradition celebrated with profound devotion. It's a time to honor and remember loved ones who have died. Its customs can inspire a real sense of unity with your past. For me, this tradition provides a meaningful way to keep the memory of loved ones alive, bridging the gap between cultures and generations.

Gathering Meaningful Elements Creating a private ofrenda starts with gathering items that hold sentimental value. Family photographs, cherished possessions, and mementos are carefully selected. In my case, these items connect me to my parents and pets and the stories they left behind. Each object carries a piece of history and nostalgia.

Setting the Stage The ofrenda is not just an arrangement of objects; it's a stage where memories come to life. I set up a dedicated space in my home, usually taking up the whole dining table - but this year our aging cat is using the space to finish his final months safely (away from accidentally being stepped on by people and dogs) so I'm using the mantle over the fire place. The most important items to me are the mementos and photographs interspersed with candles, marigolds and sugar animals and skulls.

Personal Artistic Expression This is where my own heritage merges with Dia de los Muertos. I incorporate elements from my own life and interests as well as those important in the Mexican tradition, honestly because that's how I live my life here, too. This fusion of traditions becomes a unique expression of my own identity, is a heartfelt tribute to my family and honors this sacred time in ways local people have demonstrated and inspired me to adapt to.

The Power of Reflection As I stand before the ofrenda, the room bathed in the warm glow of candlelight, I reflect on the lives and stories of those I've included. The ofrenda is not just an art expression; it's a gateway to connect with my heritage. I light copal incense, its sweet aroma wafting through the air, and I offer a silent prayer of gratitude and joy.

A Cherished Tradition

Creating a private ofrenda in the comfort of my home has become a cherished tradition. It allows me to bridge my Irish heritage with the Mexican Dia de los Muertos tradition, and through this process, I find a deeper connection with my ancestors and a profound sense of belonging. The ofrenda, with its rich symbolism and personal touch, serves as a reminder that cultural traditions can be a beautiful way to celebrate our shared humanity and the memories of those who came before us.

Cultural Appropriation: I am ever mindful of not stealing cultural practices but rather celebrating them in ways I mean to be respectful.

I'm guessing this is how the concept of Halloween is making its way around the globe at the moment. And, regrettably, the more commercial aspects of Christmas.

Being inspired by a culture's celebrations can be a wonderful way to embrace diversity, learn from one another, and foster cultural understanding. It's all about approaching these traditions with respect, appreciation, and a desire to share in the joy they bring. Culturally appropriating, on the other hand, involves borrowing elements from a culture without understanding their significance, often leading to harm or misrepresentation.

The key distinction lies in the intention and depth of understanding. Celebrating and being inspired is about unity and learning, while cultural appropriation can perpetuate stereotypes or disrespect. So, let's embrace the beauty of cultural exchange, and remember, when in doubt, it's always a good idea to engage in open and respectful dialogue with those who belong to the culture in question.

a woman with rainbow hair in Catrina face paint with her horse
Mexican traditions surrounding Dia De Los Muertos are rooted in Aztec practices which I personally respect.

Remembering treasured four legged friends.....


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