Purim

 

Purim performance at the Jewish Theatre in Warszawa, Poland. March 2009

Purim performance at the Jewish Theatre in Warszawa, Poland. March 2009

Jews celebrate the rowdy full moon festival of Purim with bawdy jokes, indulgence, gambling and dressing up in costume, all customs that link it with other springtime festivals of excess like Mardi Gras. Although Purim ostensibly celebrates the overthrow of the wicked tyrant Haman who was murdering the Jews, scholars believe the festival actually has roots in an ancient Persian spring holiday which featured a mock battle (like those often linked with Carnival and Easter).

People bring noise-makers to the evening service, to drown out the name of the tyrant Haman during the re-telling of the story of Esther. Some write his name on bits of paper which they tear up and toss into the air; others have his name written on the soles of their shoes which they stamp on the floor. The Talmud recommends drinking until it is impossible to tell the difference between “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordecai.”

hamantaschenAfter the service, everyone eats, hamantaschen, three-cornered cookies filled with poppy seeds or jam, which are said to represent Haman’s three-cornered hat. But they also resemble the triangular filled pastries in the shape of a woman’s sex used to celebrate the  Roman birth goddesses and that would certainly go along with the bawdy flavor of the holiday. Not everyone eats hamantaschen at Purim. German Jews eat gingerbread men. Egyptians eat ozne Haman, deep-fried sweets shaped like Haman’s ears. Hungarian and Romanian Jews enjoy arany galuska, (aka monkey balls) which is similar an interesting cross between coffee cake and doughnut holes (reminiscent of the king  cake and doughnuts served at Mardi Gras).

This festival is also called The Festival of Lotteries, because of the lots cast by Haman to choose the day to destroy the Jews. But playing games of chance is a feature of other festivals of reversal like Saturnalia and Twelfth Night and other festivals of reversal. At Purim, sometimes a Purim-rabbi is elected to give a mock sermon.

In some traditional Jewish towns, teams of Purimshpielers tour the streets, juggling and singing, dancing and acting, wearing costumes and presenting plays on Jewish history. In Tel Aviv, there is a parade and carnival including a beauty contest to choose Queen Esther from among the women.

The traditional Purim dinner includes kreplach and peas, particularly chickpeas, a huge challah, and, ever since the turkey was brought to Europe from North America around 1524, turkey. Some say the turkey is served in remembrance of Ahasuerus, who was a foolish king, but it may have more to do with the scope of his kingdom, for he ruled from Ethiopia to India, and the turkey was known in Hebrew as “the Indian cock.”

 

Nathan, Joan, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, Schocken Books 1988

Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy, Beacon 1982

Photo of Purim play by Henryk Kotowski, found at the Wikipedia article on Purim

Photo of hamantaschen from this website which also offers a recipe.

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Vasant Panjami

I learned about this holiday, which is new to me,  thanks to my Amber Lotus* calendar and wrote about it for the Amber Lotus holiday blog.

witchhazelThe fifth day after the new moon of January (January 24 in 2015) marks the first day of spring in the Hindu holiday calendar and is celebrated in India and Nepal.   Yellow is the auspicious color to wear: the color of happiness and the color of the mustard that is blooming at this time. (In my neighborhood in Seattle, witch hazel is already unfurling its yellow fragrant petals.) Like the early spring festivals in the Christian calendar (Mardi Gras) and Western European calendar (Candlemas), this holiday falls 40 days (or rather a moon cycle and a half in the Hindu calendar)  before the full explosion of spring celebration at the full moon of Holi (or Easter or Spring Equinox)

In ancient India, the festival honored Kamadeva, the god of desire, whose bow is made of sugarcane and strung with bees, and whose arrows are decorated with fragrant flowers. Dancing girls performed, and songs of love were sung in the royal court. It is still a day associated with love and an auspicious day for a wedding.

saraswatNow it is Saraswati, the goddess of art and learning, who is honored. Her statue is often dressed in yellow clothing. On this day, Kayastha scribes would retire their ink pots and adopt new ones, filling them with new ink for the following day. Children are encouraged to say their first word. Schools take a break. People attend art and painting competitions, music festivals, and poetry readings. Seems like a great day to set aside time for creativity, whether visiting a museum, attending a concert, writing a poem or creating something wonderful to eat.

gulab jamun

 

Since yellow is the color of the day, people wear yellow garments and eat saffron rice and yellow desserts. You can find recipes for Hindu desserts online (here’s one link but there are many) but if you can’t easily obtain the specialized ingredients, a rice pudding colored with saffron would be appropriate. I am planning to go to my neighborhood Indian restaurant, Kanak, and sample some of their yellow-colored desserts.

The photo of gulab jamun comes from the dessert site above. Gulab jamun is made from khoya (a dairy product) and flour, rolled into balls, deep-fried and finished off with a sugar syrup containing saffron.

*If you use the link above to Amber Lotus, I will get a small commission on any purchases you make.

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving as Harvest Feast

PAINTING DETAILMost Americans know the semi-mythological story of the first Thanksgiving, how the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony after a successful harvest in 1621 shared a meal with members of the Patuxet People of the Wampanoag tribe who had helped them plant their crops. But what we may not realize is that they were both acting out long-standing cultural traditions. The harvest festival, although it is celebrated at different times of the year and with different foodstuffs, is something found in every culture around the world.

The English settlers probably brought with them memories of the Michaelmas feast (September 29), the harvest festival on the English holiday calendar, a time to return home to eat together. The Wampanoag tribe had their own harvest festivals which coincided with the appearance of green corn and the arrival of certain fish species. In many African countries, the harvest festival, Odiwera, occurs at the time of the yam harvest. In Ireland, the first potatoes. In Hungary and Italy and Argentina, the grapes. In Papua, New Guinea, the pigs. In Bali, the rice. Everywhere, the festival usually involves a lavish meal, dancing, drinking, and ceremonies expressing gratitude to those (the gods or the farmers) who provided the food.

I am sometime annoyed by the insistence on recreating the ideal big family experience that accompanies Thanksgiving, an experience that is elusive but even in sitcoms, always triumphs over the forces of dysfunction arrayed against it. But I am ever so grateful that we have one holiday on the American holiday calendar that has not been co-opted by consumerism, that gathers us around a table to celebrate the food we’ve raised and cooked and shared with those we love.

This blog post first appeared at the Amber Lotus website, as part of a commissioned series of weekly posts on holiday lore.

The painting is called “The First Thanksgiving” and it’s by Jennie Brownscombe. I think it nicely illustrates the semi-mythological nature of the first Thanksgiving.

 

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Wild Grasses

I became an urban naturalist because of my fascination with holidays, an obsession that began back when I was a lonely sophomore at Reed College, spending my evenings in the library, copying weird customs out of Funk and Wagnall’s Dictionary of Folklore and Mythology and led me to graduate school at UCLA in Folklore and Mythology. Somewhere along the years of studying and celebrating, I recognized that most holiday customs were related to what was happening in nature at that particular place at that particular moment in time.

This day, August 15, is one of my favorite holidays because I can celebrate it with a simple custom: gathering wild grasses. I learned about this tradition from Gertrud Mueller Nelson who learned about it from her mother, who took her children down to the river to gather wild grasses on August 15, the Catholic feast of the Assumption. They would bring the grasses home in big bundles and pray over them. This ritual derived from a German custom of gathering wild flowers and herbs on this holiday and taking them to church to be blessed by the priest.

August 15 is an old harvest holiday (probably once celebrated on the full moon), when the grain goddess (later the Virgin Mary) would be asked to protect the harvest. All I ask is an opportunity to learn more about the wild grasses that grow on my block. There are plenty of those fancy ornamental grasses, planted by homeowners for decoration, and I admire those, but I’m more interested in the wild grasses, and their resemblances to rye, barley and wheat, the grains that have nourished humankind for centuries.

For a while, I was following the blog of Henry, a professor in San Francisco, who had taken on the project of identifying all the wild grasses he could find in the city in his blog. His commitment only lasted for two months in 2007 but it inspired me. How many wild grasses can you find and identify today?

 

The lovely photograph was taken by Melissa West.

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Flower Carpets for Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi is the name of a Catholic festival, which takes place on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (which is the Sunday after Pentecost which is the Sunday 50 days after Easter). It was first established by the Council of Vienna in 1311 to promote the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (the belief that the host consecrated in the Mass actually becomes the Body of Christ). It was really promoted during the Reformation as a demonstration of Catholic solidarity.

I still remember celebrations of Corpus Christi from my Catholic childhood. It was an opportunity for pomp and pageantry. There is usually a procession during which the priest displays the host in a monstrance, a golden vessel which is shaped like a sunburst.  I often consider, since this festival falls so close to summer solstice, that the two holidays share a common underlying symbolism.

In France, this holiday is called Fete Dieu or the Feast of God. The priest wears red and gold lavishly embroidered garments. The monstrance is a golden vessel shaped like the sun. It is usually shielded by a canopy of silk and cloth of gold. Streets are scattered with flower petals and householders decorate their homes, often by pasting flower petals on a sheet and hanging them up.

Small altars are created along the roads. In France, they’re called reposoirs and are built at crossroads. They are decorated with flowers, garlands and greens and covered with canopies of interwoven boughs. The priest goes around and blesses them.

Corpus Christi is also a time for plays and pageants (although these were originally associated with Whitsunday). Fantastically dressed performers accompanied the processions and acted out scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints at stops along the way. In medieval times, each guild sponsored a scene in a grand play showing the whole scheme of Salvation. Some of the dramas were so long they could not be performed in their entirety: the Coventry cycle took two years.

Carol Field describes the way Corpus Christi is celebrated in Spello, Italy, where people transform the main street into a carpet of color using flower petals (infiorate). Collecting the flowers takes as long as two weeks. The oldest women are given the job of taking the flowers apart, petal by petal, and separating them by the subtle differences of hue. Pine needles, ivy leaves, camomile and fennel are ground up to make green. Poppies are used for red, broom for yellow and white from daisies. The designs are complicated, and often reproduce famous paintings, usually religious ones. The priest when he emerges from the cathedral holding up the Host walks down the length of flower carpet, and the petals scatter to the breezes. It is a display of beauty and richness that is as ephemeral as it is extravagant.

Julie Ardery of Human Flower Project wrote a column about the flower carpets of another Italian town, Genzano.

In keeping with the theme, my friend, Joanna Powell Colbert, recommended the spiritual and creative practice of making a flower mandala in her recent newsletter and illustrated it with this lovely example.

 

 

 

References

Field, Carol, Celebrating Italy, Morrow 1990

Painting of Corpus Christi procession by Carl Emil Doepler (found at Wikipedia’s article on Corpus Christi)

The photo of flowers at Spello comes from the French version of Wikipedia

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Holi

My favorite holiday I’ve never celebrated is Holi, which is celebrated in India on the full moon of Phalgun (March 6 in 2015). It’s a spring festival during which people splash each other with colored, scented water or throw colored dyes at each other. It’s a rowdy time when the genders can mingle, and so can people of different social classes. A popular Holi drink is milk, flavored with spices, and also sometimes infused with hashish.

In earlier times, Holi dyes were made from palash flowers, also known as flame of the forest or the parrot tree. The photo is from a long photo-laced essay which enthuses about the colors and geometry of these flowers.  The flowers which bloom at this time of the year, were plucked, then dried, then ground into a reddish powder. In modern times, the dyes used have been made from potentially harmful chemicals so there is a movement to return to more natural dyes. One mother cleverly adapted Martha Stewart’s natural dyes for Easter eggs to making dyed Holi water, boiling cabbage leaves to make blue, turmeric to make yellow, beets to make pink and onionskins to get red dye. Combining the blue and yellow water created green.

Vasanta Raga, Ahmadnagar, c. 1595

One of the earliest depictions of Holi is found in a 16th century temple panel at Hampi, the capital of Vijayanagar, which shows a prince and princess standing among maids waiting to spray them with colored water. Another early depiction is seen in this miniature painting of Vasanta Raga (or spring music).  It shows a royal couple sitting on a swing, while maidens play music and spray them with colors from pichkaris (hand-pumps).

In America quite recently, images of people splashing each other with paint and colored dyes are cropping up in car commercials. There is also an organization which sponsors color runs across the United States and throughout the world, where runners are asked to wear white and splashed with colors as they pass by color stations.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to celebrate Holi. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to drink milk laced with hashish or throw colored powder on my friends or squirt them with colored water from a water pistol or even throw balloons full of colored water.

But that reminds me of the cascarones: eggs filled with confetti that are popular in Mexico at Easter. When thrown at someone, they break open to reveal a cloud of colored dots.  According to Wikipedia, originally these were filled with perfume and thrown at women by men, which sounds more appealing. And that reminds me of the confetti and blood oranges thrown during Carnival in Venice. Obviously there is something about juicy color and sweetness and mischief that I need to honor on this spring full moon.

Found the photo here.

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All Souls Day

by Waverly Fitzgerald

Weather Report, November 2

All Souls’, blustery and chill. I hear them before I see them, six lines scribbling across the white sky. I look up at the tiny crosses beating above me. The pain is new each year, and I’m surprised, even though I expect it the sudden cold, the geese passing over.

From Dakota by Kathleen Norris

I love Kathleen Norris’ simple but striking evocation of the mood of November 2nd. The melancholy of the geese passing overhead, warns of the arrival of winter and resonates with the image of the Wild Hunt, the horde of wandering souls that flew through the winter night sky, sometimes disguised as swans or wild geese or the wind. In Scandinavia, they were led by Odin, in England by Herne the Hunter, but in earlier times, in the Mediterranean they were led by goddesses.

The Wild Horde itself was a complex phenomenon whose origins lose themselves partly in the prehistoric past. There was the assembly of ghosts under the leadership of a female divinity, Hecate or Artemis in ancient Greece, Diana or Herodias, the mother of Salome, in the Latin West. This gathering of feminine spirits which later swelled into the crowd of evil hags at the witch sabbath was well known to the theologians of the first millenium who in vain flung their anathema against it…

As usual the effort was in vain. For as late as 1484 the Austrian Sephanius Lanzkranna reports in his ‘hymmelstrasse’ about the exploits of the Demon Dyana, whom he identifies with the local demons Frawe Percht and Frawe Holt. Herodias herself rides to the present day with the Wild Horde in large parts of Italy and in the Eastern Alps…Ritual performances meant to embody ghosts of the defunct–a feature not mentioned by writers of the first millenium–have survived over a large part of the eastern Alps under the name of Perchta, a feminine demon in whom the spirit of the Carnival is incarnated. [Bernheimer]

Bernheimer points out that the masculine Wild Horde, led by Odin, Holler, Gwyn ap Nudd, etc. is a more or less Teutonic phenomenon while the feminine one seems to be of Mediterranean origin. It may be the northern male-led horde grew out of the Southern female-led one.

In his book, Ecstasies, in which he explores the imagery of the witches’ sabbath, Carlos Ginzburg describes evidence for an early shamanic cult, centered around a goddess of abundance and the dead. She was known by many names: Herodiade, Diana, Habondia (Abundance), Richessa and the Good Goddess (Bona Dea whose festival the Romans celebrated on December 1st). Her devotees said they flew with her through the night sky, entering the houses of the rich to feast; Ginzburg suggest these journeys were undertaken in trance.

The Cathars, who developed a unique Christian religion which flourished in Southern France in the 11th and 12th centuries until wiped out as heresy by a Crusade in the 13th century, believed that this was the day when the souls of those who died during the year entered into a place of rest. Before this day, they wandered around the earth, from church to church. Angels chose from this flock those ready to be admitted to the place of rest. The living could influence the selection by saying Masses for the dead, paying off their debts and giving gifts to the poor.

This is similar to the tradition of English tradition of going from house to house, gathering ingredients for soul-cakes. Sometimes these were left out for the poor to eat, sometimes given to the priest to pay for Masses for the souls of the dead, sometimes they were given to those professionals who took on the sins of the dead, as in this passage quoted by Kightly:

In the County of Hereford was an old Custom at Funerals, to hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the Sins of the part deceased. One of them I remember (he was a long, lean, lamentable poor rascal). The manner was that when a Corpse was brought out of the house and laid on the Bier; a Loaf of bread was brought out and delivered to the Sin-eater over the corps, as also a Mazer-bowl full of beer, which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money, in consideration whereof he took upon him all the Sins of the Defunct, and freed him (or her) from Walking after they were dead.

John Aubrey, Remains of Gentilism 1688

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church tried to replace the idea of ghosts wandering around the night sky with that of souls who went straight to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory upon death and thus could not be contacted by those spiritual practitioners whose role it was to pass along messages from one world to another. With this development, the link was broken between people and their ancestors, who could no longer be prayed to or invited to return to provide advice.

Instead, wealthy patrons bestowed money on monasteries for the privilege of having the monks pray for their souls after death. In 998, the abbot of Cluny, Odilo, dedicated the day following All Saints Day as a day of psalm-singing and alms-giving, in memory of all who had died. One legend says he was spurred on in this action by a report from a traveler who had been told by an African hermit that the monks of Cluny were famous for saving souls. Another legend, related by the thirteenth century canonist, William Durandus, recorded the fate of a certain abbot who forbade saying Masses of the dead on Sundays. The souls of the deceased “afflicted him for this with very hard blows” and so he revoked his prohibition.

The dead saints replaced the ancestors as the subject of prayers and other-worldly assistance. The only dead still presumed to have contact with the living were evil spirits who still roamed the earth. They were not the sort you wanted to encounter on a dark night, thus the association of All Hallow’s Eve with ghosts and terror.

An excerpt from my Halloween holiday e-book which can be ordered at the Living in Season store.

Illustrations:

The first painting is called All Soul’s Day and it was painted in 1910 by Alader Korosfoi-Kriesch. The second painting is called Asgardreien and was painted by Peter Nicolai Arbo in 1872.

References:

Bernheimer, Richard, Wild Men of the Middle Ages: A Study in Art, Sentiment and Demonology, Octagon 1970

Ginzburg, Carlos (translated by Raymond Rosenthal), Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, Pantheon 1991

Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

Ladurie, Roy (translated by Barbara Bray), Montaillou, George Braziller 1978

Norris, Kathleen, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Houghton Mifflin 1993.

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New Year Planning

I love planning. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Which is why I spend the whole month of January figuring out my goals for the new year. This year I’ll be doing it along with the students in my online class called New Year Dreams. I’ve been seeing an upswelling of posts on the Internet with great ideas for New Year planning and thought I’d point out a few of them.

There’s the one word approach. Christine Kane is known for this method and proposes a list of good words at her site. (My word isn’t on it though) My friend Christine Valters Paintner has a lovely blog about this one word concept too. My word for 2010 (which I got from Havi Brooks, who got it from Hiro Boga), was Sovereignity.

And if you want some magic spray to go with your word, check out Deborah Weber’s offerings. I just ordered her Sovereignity spray. She has auric sprays for many popular themes, like Trust and Serenity and she can make custom blends as well.

Chris Brogan uses three words which does extend the scope a little, and I like the mind maps that go with them. His words and maps are like little mysteries to me. They wouldn’t motivate me but I like it that they are concepts not qualities. His 3 words for 2010 were Ecosystem, Owners and Kings (which is kind of like Sovereignity).

I’m encouraged that so many people are realizing that having themes is a much more useful way to approach the year than goals, which usually get reduced to something soulless like make $XX,000 money or “lose XX pounds.” A theme helps you get at the longing behind the goal, the divine quality that is wanting to be expressed.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t need metrics. I really love the spreadsheet method of tracking your goals developed by Chris Guillebeau. (Although I do notice that the men on this list approach this process in much more practical way than the more organic approaches of the women. Still both are useful.)

I sometimes have trouble figuring out where to go with my themes and the spreadsheet helps me think of them in terms of concrete goals.

Alicia Forest has aninteresting way of working with themes and goalsthat combines the more rational approach with the organic one. She advises finding a theme for the year and then identifying four goals to accomplish, one per quarter (or season as I would have it).  She calls those the four Pillars of the year.

I may integrate this idea with the  Natural Planner process I developed to give me a more natural way of moving through the year. It reminds me to review my themes (which are different than goals) every season and acknowledge what I’ve achieved so far. Visual planning methods seem to work better for me these days than the grids and lists I used to love.

I hope you have a favorite planning process, one that fills you with delight.  If you do, please share it with me! I’m trying out as many as I can.

Collage made by me was one of my themes for 2012: Presence.

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Days of the Dead

The Tzeltals of Mexico celebrate the Feast of the Dead for thirteen days, beginning on October 25th. Graves are decorated with pine needles and tusus (yellow wild flowers).

In Puebla, the accidentados (the souls of those who died in accidents) return on October 28th, followed by the angelitos (the souls of dead children) who show up at noon on October 31, to be followed by the souls of dead adults on November 1. This sequence probably derives from the Aztec calendar which devoted two months to the dead: the ninth month to dead infants, the tenth month to dead adults.

The Aztecs did not fear death like European Christians, for whom it was a time of judgment. The Aztecs saw death as a phase in a cyclic journey. In fact, to die was to wake from the dream of life.

The Aztecs did not fear death like European Christians, for whom it was a time of judgment. The Aztecs saw death as a phase in a cyclic journey. In fact, to die was to wake from the dream of life. In the Yucatan, the Maya bury their dead with food, drink, clothing and other things they will need on their journey to the place of the dead.

The combination of the indigenous reverence for death with the Catholic holidays of All Saints and All Souls brought to Mexico by the Spaniards in 1521 produced a flowering of ritual and art in Mexico around the time of this holiday. Vendors sell skeletons made of paper mache or clay and wire with cotton wool hair, dressed as postmen, revolutionaries, street vendors, wedding couples and musicians and macabre toys, like clay skulls with movable lower jaws or skeletons that dance on a string. In Oaxaca, you can turn a handle and watch skeletons in small painted wooden theatres rise up in their coffins or drink from a cup. Printers make special editions and comic publications, satirizing famous people both dead and alive, who are depicted in skeleton or skull form with satirical obituaries, describing the person and his (mis)deeds.

Children beg for “a funeral” or “a death” and are given treats like bones made of milk chocolate and sugar skulls with maraschino cherries for eyes and grins of syrup and rows of fine gold teeth, sometimes bearing their name. One visitor to Mexico in 1884 remarked on figures in the shape of guitars, sheep, angels, souls in purgatory (I’d like to see this!) and animals “of every species, enough to form specimens for Noah’s ark.”

altar

Ofrendas, offerings, to the dead of food and drink are placed on the altar.

The Days of the Dead are a time of reunion. People travel home. Altars are set up in houses, and decorated with flowers, leaves, fruit, incense and candles.  Sometimes flower petals are scattered in a path from the altar to the open door to guide the returning dead.

Ofrendas, offerings, to the dead of food and drink are placed on the altar. The dead derive nourishment from the smell of the food and drink so it should have a strong aroma. Starr mentions liquors, cigarettes, mole, pulque and tamales. Anita Brenner in Idols Behind Altars mentionfoodonaltars beans, chili, tortillas, and other ordinary dishes plus the specialties of the season: “pumpkins baked with sugar cane, pulque or a bluish maize-brew with a delicate sugar film, and Dead Mens’ Bread. For the children, candy skulls, pastry coffins, ribs and thigh-bones made of chocolate and frosted sugar, tombstones, wreaths, and pretentious funerals.”

Everyone goes to church. Masses are said. Genealogies recited. On the night of November 1, people gather in cemeteries and spend the night with “the little dead ones.” A priest might come and sprinkle the graves with holy water. Candles burn on every grave which are decorated with offerings and flowers. Brenner mentions heavy purple wild blossoms and the yellow pungent cempoalxochitl (marigolds). In Zinacantan, the graves are covered with pine needles, pine boughs and red geraniums and offerings. In Jimenez, people bring the bed in which the person died to the cemetery, hung with lace and curtains, white for children and black for adults. Those who have no beds take tables and place them over the grave instead, decorating them with gold and silver paper stars, paper flowers, etc. Sometimes bands serenade the dead with songs and music. In other places, people dance. Refreshments are sold at the gate.cemetery2

In San Augustin, the children gather at the church early in the morning of October 31st. From there, they walk to the graveyard, carrying a banner depicting the Eucharist, bread angels and green branches, accompanied by a prayer-maker and a few women and a band. In the graveyard, they say prayers and then return to the church, bringing back with them the souls of the angelitos, the dead children. After praying a second time, they go home to feast with their parents on mole, tamales, bread, squash, fruits, pumpkin prepared with brown sugar, maize cobs and other foods. At night four dishes are put on the floor of the house, together with candles, flowers and food for the dead. Bread and fruit are put on a “sun-and-water” bed made from maize stalks. Candles and tiny angels are left on the dry stone walls and fences so that the village children can come and carry them off. Animals are watched to make sure they don’t eat the offerings; dogs are sometimes muzzled during this holiday so their barking doesn’t drive away tcemetery3he dead. In the morning, the family eats the food left out for the dead and prepares another feast for the dead adults. On the third day, November 2nd, the children, along with the prayer-maker and the band, take the dead back to the graveyard.

References:
Brenner, Anita, Idols behind Altars. Beacon Press 1970, quoted in Sayer
Sayer, Chloe, ed, Mexico: The Day of the Dead, London: Redstone Press
Starr, Frederick, from a catalogue for the Collection of Objects Illustrating the Folklore of Mexico, produced for the Folkore Society in London quoted by Sayer

The beautiful photographs were taken by Judy Maselli in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Taken from my Halloween holiday e-book which contains recipes for sugar skulls and bones of the dead, plus more information on other cultural variants of this holiday including I Morti in Italy, Samhain in Ireland, Nos Galan Gaef in Wales. You can order it and get an instant download link at my store.

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