Dia de los Muertos Festivities
With offerings, special masses, pan dulce and the singing of las Mañanitas, NPH Mexico celebrates All Saints day and Día de los Muertos.
November 15, 2011 - Mexico
Fall is a wonderful time of year for the children of NPH Mexico to celebrate traditional holidays of their country. The month of November starts off with All Saints Day on the first and Día de los Muertos on the second—two festive days that show off Mexico's rich culture.
As a Catholic tradition in Mexico, there is a saint dedicated to each day of the year and each person has a special saint, depending on their date of birth. On All Saints Day, NPH Mexico celebrates all of our children’s birthdays by waking up the children at 5 a.m. to “Las Mañanitas,” a traditional Mexican birthday song dedicated to celebrating one’s saint day. Members of the student music group gathered their instruments and made their way through each of the dormitories, starting with our youngest children. They played the special birthday song throughout the house until all of the children sleepily crawled out of bed and joined the celebration. Friends and siblings made it a game to find each other’s beds and pull off blankets, as no one was allowed to stay in bed! All of the children, directors and volunteers of Casa San Salvador enjoyed spending an early morning together, eating cake and drinking hot chocolate. (Note: NPH Mexico also has birthday parties with cake and presents every month for the children whose birthdays fall in that month.)
The high school students sing las Mañanitas and enjoy a delicious cake on All Saints Day.
Offerings dedicated to the dead are normally displayed on November 2nd for Día de los Muertos, but since there was no school that day, our high school students of Casa Buen Señor spent all day at school on the 1st making elaborate offerings and presenting them to their classmates, teachers, principals and other special guests. The spectators moved from one offering to the next, listening to each group present the special meaning of each item of its offering. There was a traditional Mixteca offering, an offering dedicated to the children who died in a daycare fire two years ago, and four separate offerings representing important eras in Mexico’s history. Each of the groups did a wonderful job putting together the offerings and articulating its significance to the audience.
In Mexico, Día de los Muertos is an important holiday to remember loved ones who have passed and to honor them with special offerings. It is a lighthearted day that focuses on the wonderful memories shared, instead of dwelling on the somberness of death. On this special day at NPH Mexico, Father Philip Cleary led a special mass at Casa San Salvador, our home for younger children, and at Casa Buen Señor, our home for our high school students. The homes’ chapels were decorated with brightly colored streamers, giant skeletons with sombreros and most importantly, an offering table filled with candy bars, sweet bread and fruit. Father Phil shared a message relating death to a sand castle that is carried out to sea by a wave. He explained that although a great amount of time and effort is put into building one's life, one day God will send his wave that calls us to heaven and washes over our bereaved family members. He then read off a long list of names to honor NPH Mexico’s deceased friends and family members. There was a general remembrance for mothers and fathers for our youngest children who were not able to remember the complete names of their relatives.
The most exciting part for the children was after the mass when each section was called up to receive a special treat off of the offering table. After the offerings were distributed, everyone gathered in the grass outside the chapel to enjoy candy bars, sugar skulls, “pan de los muertos” and hot chocolate.
The children at Casa San Salvador spent the rest of the day diligently building offerings in their dormitories. At night, the house directors, volunteers and other staff members visited each dorm to judge each offering based on their presentation speech and the aesthetics of the actual offering. It was a difficult contest to judge, since all of the offerings were a spectacular sight, adorned with marigold petals, candles and other decorations.
These two days in November create many fond memories for our children here at NPH Mexico. We are thankful to bring joy in the lives of our children through these traditional Mexican festivities.