No, it's not about the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Today is what is called, in many cultures, particularly Hispanic influenced cultures, Dia de los Muertos...or Day of the Dead.
Being in Houston, with its large Hispanic population, Day of the Dead is becoming a holiday that more and more people participate in. It might sound morbid upon first glance, but it's really all about celebrating the lives of those we've lost. Because mourning and being sad is seen as an insult to the dead, they would much rather see us happy and celebrating them. The origin is thought to be a sort of blending of Native American traditions, Spanish traditions and Catholic holidays...November 1st is "All Saints Day" and today, November 2 is "All Souls Day". On this day, altars have frequently been set up in homes that are adorned with flowers, pictures, candles, objects...even food and drink, that were all favorites of the loved one who has passed. It is believed that this is the one day of the year when they know their loved one will come back to visit and take in the essence of their favorite things. When the one who has passed is done, they leave the food for the family to eat and celebrate with later. Often picnics are held, sometimes even on the grave or in the graveyard, with as many relatives attending as possible. More often though, it's simply a celebration in the home. In some parts of Houston, neighborhoods set up their altars and decorations on the front porch and it becomes more of a neighborhood celebration, not unlike Halloween.
Skulls and skeletons are prominently featured because it is believed that it is a way of telling "death" that we're not afraid, death is just another stage that follows life and there is more after passing. It's a very optimistic and hopeful belief system.
One of my coworkers painted this pumpkin at home and our boss liked it so much, he asked her to paint one for our office pumpkin...
...so she painted this one. When she was finished, she put our office, company name and logo on it as well. It came out pretty awesome!
Here are some links for those wondering more about this fascinating holiday:
Day of the Dead flower traditions
Day of the Dead WIKI entry
Day of the Dead sugar skull history
Day of the Dead decorations at Amazon
Next year, we are going to set up our own altar, or "ofrenda", to honor our parents and those others we've lost. We'll also invite friends over to share in the moment. We think it's a wonderful tradition worthy of bringing it into our own sphere of traditions.
Hope you enjoyed learning a bit about a tradition that maybe you haven't heard about before.