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Homebound Holidays: Honoring Loved Ones, No Matter What

Magaly Merkel's family
Magaly's home alter

Magaly displays photos of her deceased loved ones as a way to honor them during Día de los Muertos.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead or All Souls Day) originated in Mexico and is celebrated all over Latin America with colorful calaveras (skulls) and calacas (skeletons). This year, Día de los Muertos may look different, but we’ll still take time to honor our loved ones who passed away.

The Día de los Muertos holiday pulls on my heartstrings, bringing back many beautiful and wonderful memories from when I was a little girl. My family would drive thousands of miles to Guadalajara, Mexico during the fall months, around the time of Día de los Muertos (between October 31 and November 2).

We would have nostalgic feelings as we remembered and honored our deceased loved ones. We visited their cemeteries, all lit up and decorated with flowers, offerings of sweet bread, and photos. Our families would spend time there, reminiscing about our loved ones who passed away. We would laugh and cry and ironically, it would bring joy and warmth to our hearts.

Fast forward to today when our lives have changed so much because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we may not gather together, my family in the United States and Mexico will still honor our deceased loved ones this year. We will have photos of them in picture frames. We will have our Mexican sweet bread ready and toast our loved ones with Mexican hot chocolate. We will then choose a special dedicated area of our home to place these items, along with brightly colored sugar skulls (representing the departed soul), marigold flowers (representing the fragility of life, and used to guide spirits with their vibrant color), and colorful paper flowers.

My kids and I love to make our own paper flowers. While making them, they learn more about the Day of the Dead as we spend time together, and more importantly, they learn about their ancestors. It’s beautiful to see my kids’ eyes get bigger and brighter as they want to learn more about my family’s heritage and this special day.

We will never forget our loved ones who have passed. Día de los Muertos is certainly here with us, no matter what life throws our way.

Photo: Magaly (left) with her kids and their grandparents visiting from Canada, celebrating a Día de los Muertos at Blakely Hall in 2019.

NOTE:  This article was published in October 2020 Connections, featuring “Homebound Holidays in the Highlands: Celebrating Together, Apart in Issaquah Highlands.” Stories were provided by the Issaquah Highlands Cross-Cultural Committee. Read more stories in this series here.

As published in October 2020 Connections >>