by Cassandra Vincent
I’ve been curious about it before but this year I was able to delve a bit into the Day of the Dead experiencing the beauty and spirit of this holiday over multiple days doing the makeup, photo shoots and visiting altars. In Spanish it is called Dia de Los Muertos and has a history centuries long. This festival has origins in the culture of the ancient indigenous peoples of roughly 3,000 years ago in what we now call Mexico. Celebrated on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, it is a celebration of life and an appreciation of the connections we make in life that death can never sever. People make altars including pictures, candles, colorful flowers and items that the deceased loved one enjoyed from traditional bread and sweets to bottles of bourbon and toys. I’ve seen tiny, colorful altars made in cigar boxes to altars that fill entire rooms. It is such a beautiful holiday visually and emotionally.
I attended a festival this year where many businesses created altars to celebrate those respected and loved who have passed, from family members and staff to entertainers and historical figures. One local tea shop, Bird Pick Tea & Herb, made an altar to tea sage, Lu Yu! From China, Lu Yu lived from 733-804 AD, and is a major figure in tea history having written The Classic Tea (Cha Jing or Ch’a Ching) thought to be the first book on growing and making tea. He was considered a Tea Master and a poet writing of the experience of and reverence for tea. If you ever go to a tea shop that specializes in Chinese teas you are likely to see a statue of him like these:
Like tea, the Day of the Dead brings people together opening the door to conversations that may not otherwise happen. I stopped into a lovely restaurant, Lost at Sea, and the chef/owner Tim Carey shared a drink with me while showing me the altar he made to honor his son. At other stops on the self-guided tour there were altars that celebrated the influence of entertainers whose work I have been inspired by including an altar to Bowie as Jareth from the film Labyrinth in Neon Retro Arcade and a couple of altars to Carrie Fisher focusing on her role as Princess Leia from Star Wars in Cool Haus and Harlowe’s. Enjoy the gallery of altars below.
Every day is worth celebrating the joys of life: connection, fun, good food, love, creativity and something delicious in your cup to wash it all down. This celebration has them all. I wish you many reasons to celebrate and raise your cup. Cheers!
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