Monday, November 01, 2010

It's All Saints Day. Did You Build Your Altar?

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Did you know that today is All Saint's Day? I went to a Dia De Los Muertos ceremony at our Unitarian church yesterday and part of the service included calling out the names of our deceased loved ones and adding their pictures to a table in the front of the sanctuary that was decorated with sweets, candles and flowers. It was a lovely celebration.

Of course this is not the first time I've taken part in a 'Day of the Dead' celebration, but the idea of paying homage to our ancestors has been tickling my mind for awhile now. And I admit, I'm a sucker for ritual and myth. While I was investigating the cultural traditions of Ghana I discovered that the ancestors who have passed are still highly regarded and remembered in everyday life there. I have a dear friend who keeps an altar in her bedroom for her father who died when she was a teen. Perhaps because many of my family members are dying now, I am feeling called to examine how I can keep their memory alive AND honor their contribution to my life. I also want my children to know the wonderful people who paved the way for their existence. I think having an altar in my home that serves as an active reminder of my relatives who have crossed over is a wonderful and comforting symbol of continuity and respect. What's more, I found out some more about my maternal grandmother whom I know very little about. I told my mother about the altar and asked what she thought I should add to honor her mother. "What kind of things did she like," I asked? I thought my mother might scoff at the idea, but instead she fell back into a memory and told me that my grandmother liked Coca-Cola in a bottle, circus peanuts, peppermints and candy orange slices. I never knew that. But now I do. And my children will too.

As soon as I'm done here at work today, I'm going on the hunt for circus peanuts. For my grandmother.

What about your Meltingpot readers. Do you have an altar in your home? Do you honor your ancestors in other ways? I found this article on Wikipedia about the practice of honoring the dead. It's a universal practice, expressed in different ways of course, but I love how almost every culture has special rituals and myths around their dead.

Okay I'm listening.



currentsbtwshores said...

I always celebrate All Saints Day because it falls on my deceased father's birthday. I light a candle right before sunset because my dad used to tease us when we were very little that there is a very brief point in the day when the sky meets the earth. At sunset it actually appears to be true.

LT said...

Rose Anne,
What a beautiful memory. I like that.

Quiskaeya said...

I don't celebrate All Saints Day since I'm a Christian. Although, I can't say that all Christians don't celebrate - I really don't know. But anywho, I have always thought it important to remember the dead through memories and articles. I have a lovely chest of items from my grands, greatgrands and other family members. It contains many pictures and other memorabilia that i enjoy bringing out for special occasions for my children to see. It's a great way to keep connected with those who have passed and teach the younger ones about their ancestors.

riffraff814 said...

Following on the tradition of Samhain (from Wicca), I like to think about those who have passed in the previous year. And I attempt to find ways to bring them to mind in the future, so they aren't forever lost.

This year, a friend from college passed away unexpectedly. He had been quite an aficionado of squid.

And it was a funny turn of events that led my daughter to have quite the squid obsession in the last few weeks. On some level, it was the universe pointing out the value of Monty's existence, brief though it turned out to be. I'm just glad that, because I knew him, I know more about squid than my daughter does. For a little while, at least.