Category Archives: Mexican Holidays

An Evolution of El Dia de Los Muertos

It has come to my attention that there is some debate about the proper name of the events that go on in Mexico on November 2.  Apparently there is a section of the population, although I’m unclear whether that population is Mexican or of Mexican descent, that believe the name is Dia de Muertos instead of the longer El Dia de los Muertos.

It is true that language is fluid and constantly evolving and the shortening of a name is a common occurrence.  After all, in the English language, All Hallows’ Evening is now known as Halloween and bears scant resemblance to how it was originally observed.  So it seems El Dia de los Muertos is undergoing a transition as well.

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For example, this year, our town that aspires to be a city, had a whole weekend of “Dia de Muertos” events in addition to the traditional altares en el jardin (alters in the center garden).  It was unprecedented!  There was a parade, just like in the James Bond movie, (well, almost) and a Catrina/Catrine best costume competition and even bikers dressed as skeletons out for an after-dark bike ride.

That’s not to say that El Dia de Los Muertos has never changed before. After the Spanish conquest, the original date for this celebration of life was changed to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Instead of obsidian disks, glass mirrors are brought to the cemetery now with the hope of catching a glimpse of departed loved ones.  Walmart now makes the pan de muerto (bread of the dead) instead of local bakers which left me without a sample of that sweet bread this year.  Sigh.  “Dia de Muertos” has become trendy and left behind the traditional El Dia de Los Muertos in many areas. Tourists flock to cemeteries to gawk at the tombs of the dead, adorned with love and cempasúchil (marigold) flower petals.

Even with all these new-fangled additions brought in locally, on November 1, known locally as El Dia de Los Angelitos, and on November 2, El Dia de los Muertos, everyone was en familia (with their families) at the panteon (cemetery).  I suppose the Civic fathers knew enough not to directly interfere with these customs and for this reason scheduled the events over the weekend instead of the high holy days.  

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And for us, it was still personal and private.  We visited my husband’s grandparents’ tomb in Cerano in the morning. We visited my husband’s mother’s tomb in the afternoon.  We left flowers and pictures and talked about our memories so that they will not die the third death yet, the death that comes when there is no one left to keep them alive in their hearts.

See Also El Dia de Los Muertos, Tio Felipe, The Day of the Dead)

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New Year’s Resolutions

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Mexico has some interesting ideas about New Year’s Eve and how you can get what you want later in the year. What do you think of this list of dos and don’ts from Focus on Mexico?

**Wear red underwear for love. Wear yellow underwear to assure happiness and good moments. It is better if the underwear is a gift from someone else. To have many new clothes during the year, wear your underwear backward. (In our part of Mexico, yellow underwear brings the wearer financial prosperity for the coming year.)
**Eat lentils for prosperity. Make a little package of lentils and carry it in your purse all year long so you will have money.
**Walk out of your house with suitcases in your hands at midnight to make trips during the year. You can also walk around the block.
**To have your wishes come true in the new year, eat 12 grapes during the 12 times the bells ring at midnight and make 12 wishes.
**Sweep the floor of your house through the door and out to avoid bad luck. (In our area of Mexico, there is a special cleansing called la Limpieza de las 7 Iglesias using holy water gathered from 7 churches during Semana Santa and chlorine)
**Throw a bucket of water out of your house to clean it from bad vibes.
**Sweep money inside to have prosperity. Put money in your shoes for prosperity.
** Write on a paper everything you don’t want anymore in your life like sadness, anger, etc… and then burn it.

This year, the Flores family bypassed every single one of these traditions. We didn’t even head up the hill for the yearly BYOB (bring your own bucket) family bonfire. And you know what? Nothing bad happened! At least, so far.

On the other hand, there are some new traditions in line with our resolutions that we’d like to implement. I have already begun the Transition Year, as I have dubbed 2016-2017. Along with some personal goals that will be revealed in due course, I have some blogging goals that begin today!

Each month, I will endeavor to find a Woman Writer in Mexico to feature and share with you. In line with starting things out right, this month’s inspiring woman writer is Monique Alvarez.

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“Your life is your adventure’ …say Yes to whatever beckons your heart. Make decisions that line up with your soul…..Push yourself past where you think you can go. Surprise yourself with what you can accomplish…..cherish your uniqueness. Create your world and fill it with all the things that make you happy.

With these inspiring words from “Success Redefined, Travel, Motherhood, and Being the Boss” by Monique Alvarez, I challenge you to rethink your New Year’s resolutions and traditions too.

Use these inspiring questions from Monique to define your resolutions and make your change:

**What are 3-5 things you want to accomplish in the next year?
**What must you do in order to reach each one?
**What must happen for them to fall into place that you have no control over?
**What will it feel like when you accomplish these things?
**How will you celebrate when you accomplish them?
**What is one area of your life on which you’d like to focus over the next 6 months?
**How do you want to grow in this area of your life?
**What is one daily self-care practice you can start right now?

So, armed with our resolutions firmly in mind, let’s begin 2017, shall we?

blessing

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Chambelan at the party

No Quinceañera event would be complete without the party. Despite what you may imagine, it is a highly organized affair, well, at least until that last hour anyway. Remember, this tradition comes from formal presentation of a newly transitioned woman to society, dating back to 500 BC in Mesoamerica.

I was able to make short videos of the various activities at this Quinceañera, but the quality is not the best. I apologize for that. You’ll be able to see my gorgeous son though throughout!

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We arrived a bit earlier that the Quinceañera party. We wandered around a bit until we found tables that weren’t reserved. We were in the chambelan family section. Instead of sitting all at one table, however, each set of parents opted to have their own table for 8. Whatever! I did notice however that the resemblance each chambelan had to his father was marked and we could therefore easily identify the family of each.

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Before too long, the Quinceañera and her escorts arrived and made their formal entrance. My son’s pants seemed to be the only one out of the four that were so tight.

After the formal entry, there was the Ceremony of the Change of Shoes. The Quinceañera’s shoes are replaced with high heels, symbolic of her change in position from child to woman.

After she had received her new shoes, the Quinceañera was crowned. She will always be a princess.

The chambelanes next danced the waltz with Quinceañera. Traditionally, the chambelanes would be eligible young men who would have been considered appropriate mates and thus would have been allowed to pay court to the young woman.

Following the chambelanes’ waltz, was the father-daughter dance. In this case, I thought the choice of Total Eclipse of the Heart an inappropriate song, but hey, I didn’t pick the music. The godfather also took a spin around the dance floor with his goddaughter, but I didn’t record that.

The dancing paused for more ceremony at his point. Next, there was the presentation of flowers. The Quinceañera received two bouquets of blue roses. Then she presented a rose to each and every person who was considered essential to the event, parents, godparents, damas, chambelanes. It took awhile, and several of those so honored were not present, but finally, it was over.
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Following the flower bestowal was the Ceremony of the Last Doll. The Quinceañera was presented with a large doll dressed just like her as her final doll of childhood, based on a Maya tradition.

Also as a symbol of her new status, the Quinceañera was toasted with wine. At this party, only the godparents, parents and chambelanes received wine. The rest of us had to toast with soda.

Then followed the final waltz and exit of the Quinceañera and her escorts.

After a costume change, the Quinceañera, the chambelanes and the damas performed a modern dance sequence. The man of honor, the Quinceañera’s boyfriend, defended his lady love from the zombie like attentions of the unacceptable chambelanes. I didn’t think it was a fair fight. He whipped out a pistol and shot them at the end.

Finally, there was a solo dance by the Quinceañera. It was a bit hoochie-coo for a 15-year-old to perform in my opinion. But I’m not her mother.

Surprisingly enough, we were not served carnitas (pork) but fried chicken. It was ho-hum and certainly not worth the money I’d spent in costuming. After eating, there was a bit more dancing by the young adults.

As I sat there watching my son revel in the power of his youth and beauty, the music like a second heartbeat, I got a bit teary-eyed. How fast he had grown!

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My son dressed for his kindergarten graduation ceremony.

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My son dressed for his role as chambelan.

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Chambelan at the church

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Part of my son’s duty as a chambelan (escort) was to attend the pre-party misa (mass). The church of choice in Moroleon is El Templo del Señor de Esquipulas. The church had been adorned with a few additional touches, like this white flowered lighted tree thingy.

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The ceremony began with the priest anointing everyone with holy water and a march down the aisle to stand before the altar. The Quinceañera had a special seat front and center while the court (chambelanes and damas) had seats to either side of her. Her parents and godparents were also up front.

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I’m not Catholic, and although my husband is, he’s never attended this special Quinceañera mass, so wasn’t much help in explaining things. There was a sermon. The gist of it was that the Quinceañera was now an adult and able to make decisions as an adult, but as a woman of faith, those decisions should be in line with what the holy church dictates. The godparents passed a lit candle to her, representing their obligation of transmitting the flame of faith to the Quinceañera. The Quinceañera read from a red book that I assume is the particular holy book for such events. She promised her devotion and offered her heart to the faith.

Te ofrezco, Se­ñor, mi juventud; guía mis pasos, mis acciones, mis pensamientos. Concédeme la gracia de comprender tu mandamiento nuevo, el mandamiento de amarnos unos a otros. Que tu gracia en mi no resulte vana, te lo pido por Jesucristo, tu Hijo, nuestro Salvador y Redentor. Amén. (I offer you, Lord, my youth; Guide my steps, my actions, my thoughts. Grant me the grace to understand your new commandment, the commandment to love one another. May your grace in me not be in vain, I ask you through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Savior, and Redeemer. Amen)

There was some mention of La Virgin de Guadalupe, and I saw a bouquet of flowers in the Quinceañera’s colors of blue and silver at the foot of her altar.

Madre mía, presenta mi ofrenda y mi vida al Señor. Sé siempre mi modelo de mujer valiente, mi fortaleza y mi guía. Tú tienes el poder de cambiar los corazones; toma pues, mi corazón y hazme digna hija tuya. Amén. (My mother, I present my offering and my life to the Lord. May you always be my model of a brave woman, my strength, and my guide. You have the power to change hearts; Take, then, my heart and make me worthy your daughter. Amen.)

There was some praying, some kneeling, some standing, some bell ringing and some sitting. I wasn’t able to understand it all with the acoustics in the church being what they were.

I did find the promises that the Quinceañera made above and some additional information on the mass procedure. (Misa de  Accion de gracias de Quinceañera, Quinceañera misa guia, Misa para celebrar los 15 años)

Then there was the call to partake communion. At this point, my husband’s latent Catholicism kicked in. He nearly jumped out of his seat with the comment that our son could not partake of the wafer. I just rolled my eyes. Our son certainly was astute enough to know that without being told.

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The Quinceañera and her entourage marched back down the aisle, concluding the services. My husband and I took our leave. We headed to the centro (downtown) for some churros and cacahuates (peanuts) while the picture taking session took place.

About an hour later we headed to the party hall to continue the festivities.

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