Over and over and OVER. I think I finally know how to learn Spanish. Sit in a Mexican Bank and anything is possible. So it was Tuesday, after about 2 and a half hours with three people cutting in front of a few of us, and hearing the preview for a new album titled Oldvidarte – I had alot of time to do things – Create my 2016 Christmas list, create a To do list for the week, and know what I wanted to blog about next. I should have brought a book, but hopefully that is the last time I needed to be a frequent flyer in the Customer Service area of Bancomer Bank, while they were amazing and helped 100%, the wait is just half the story, right?
I get this question alot, “How does Mexico Celebrate Christmas and Day of the Dead?” While I have covered this in past blog posts in past years, I think it is worthy of revisiting. Regarding Christmas, I like the fact that Christmas is actually celebrated from December 16th to January 6th. Whoa, really? Absolutely. Similar to vendors starting right after Halloween in the states to bring out Christmas, at least in Mexico, while this does occur, the emphasis on the holiday is more tradition and family-based which you HAVE to love and can handle the early-ness due to the fact that it is obvious more emphasis is put on the tradition, family and friends – you can feel it.
There are what are called posadas, (the sequence of looking for an inn like Mary and Joseph) and nine of them. Basically, a posada is an inn or play to stay like lodging. To kick off the December tradition, a fiesta is held for the Virgin de la Soledad, the patron saint of Oaxaca. Often a staple there is the main centerpiece of the holiday, A different church is visited from the 18th to the 24th, with celebration on the 25th. Also, on December 23, the annual Noche de los Rabanos takes place in Centro, which still is kind of funny to me, but in the Zocolo, booths exhibit “hand-carved, giant radishes. Most often, these sculptures carry a religious theme. But this is not necessarily so. The subject could be comical, a scene from a bullfight or anything that strikes the fancy of the sculptor. On Nochebuena, processions from various churches fan out to the zocalo. There are also colorfully decorated floats, music, traditional dancing, and pinata prizes. The crowning glory of this fiesta is a mammoth fireworks display.”
Three Kings Day, which is huge here, on January 6th (there were three kings dressed up outside several restaurant establishments, with thousands (literally, I went to Costco and I stopped counting at like 980 on pallets) of boxes of Rosca de Reyes. IF you are lucky enough to find the baby Jesus that is baked inside, guess what? You get to host the meal February 2nd, for Dia de Candelaria. (I have one of these but found it on my own, not in company, and kept it. Sorry, no party). I am resolving to at least keep some of this tradition next year and make sure we make the Rosca de Reyes in the states 🙂 I might be “sick” early net year to truly capture the whole period of this tradition in honor of family, friends, and the tradition – Plus, there are SO MANY PLACES in Mexico that do a variety of celebrations – check them out.
Not exactly linking El Dia de Muertos, Day of the Dead with Christmas, but there is a common them I will get to in a minute if you haven’t guessed already. For Day of the Dead, the states’ equivalent of Halloween, but ranging from October 31st to November 2nd. Again, Halloween in the states is about candy (at least it was for me ) – in Mexico, amazing and awesome displays of family, tradition, and friends. Family being the highest ranking factor here. Altars, or ofrendas, are created and wow, they are usually amazing. Graveyards are filled with family remembering loved ones, (usually occurring on Nov 2nd) and usually completely surrounded by candles and the flowers, yellow marigolds, that light the way for the deceased. Not eerie at all as it sounds actually, when you change the theme of the celebration to family, friends, and this sense of tradition, it is amazing what meaning days and events take on.
Spending my time this year in Patzcuaro was 100% worth it, as this is one of, if not the, largest center to celebrate Day of the Dead. The true crux is November 1st (Day of the Innocents) and the 2nd, All Souls Day, which is officially (Day of the Dead). Symbols are of course the ofrendas (altars) with food left for family members that are remembered, the skulls made out of sugar, as well as the bread, Pan de Muerto, La Catrina – the Day of the Dead symbol, and the one main flower – yellow marigolds or empasuchil, lighting the way among all the graves.
None of it is horrifying, scary, or horrible, actually all of it is so much more enriching than the spiderman masks I used to slide into with the bags to gather candy, I like the fact that there is a much more familial tradition attached to the idea of Halloween I used to always know. Being a huge Prehispanic tradition, this idea of tradition and ritual is deeply embedded.
Take all this, and throw in the mix my visit to The Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.. Not tied to either holiday by tradition, but by that one word, Oldvidarte, meaning to forget, you see now. There are a variety of ways to celebrate holidays no matter where you are in the world, but I realized, after had taken a Seminar on the Holocaust years ago at the University of Delaware, as well as having been lucky to have a student group that created a travelling mural project imitating the children’s tile project in the Holocaust museum, to not forget is one of the largest reason holidays are exemplified and important.
There are a thousand reasons to get caught up in Black Friday, or Christmas shopping, but without the deep-seeded reasons of celebrating, everything else is just superficial. I was at one point caught up in the lack of being prepared gift-wise this year, and then as soon as a set that aside and took just being among friends and family, the former fell into place and seemed to matter less. The same was true of being again in the Holocaust Museum, it IS a museum but is so much more than that, it is a symbol of why it is important to pass generations afterwards the importance that comes out of such a tragedy. Perpetrators, collaborators, Some Were Neighbors, dissenters, but then once realizing those divisions, taking all this memory and applying it today. That is the second level of awareness, where individuals that did not remember or did not live during the Holocaust learn from it and apply it to what happens every single day today in some areas.
Obviously The United States Holocaust Museum is an education in itself, but even more, whether Day of the Dead or Halloween, Christmas or posadas/Kings Day, or the Holocaust of the past or the recent/ current Holocausts that occur all over the world, to not forget is crucial. Only then can we make a difference. In this light, when I see Martin Luther King Day, it takes on a whole new meaning of what we should do, observe, and commit ourselves to pledge to make a difference, every chance we get. Walking through, amid, and among The Holocaust Museum, I realized, not necessarily thinking about which celebration is better than another in any given country, but being willing to, and taking advantage of being exposed to so many different views, allows you to take all of these practices and blend them into more meaningful ways to things about holidays, as well as past generations, and let the superficial elements of purchasing, buying elaborate gifts, and just the commercialism to be pushed back and let the real meanings of events and celebrations, and generations, come to the surface. That is the real gift that occurs when the ability to synthesize a variety of events, traditions, and celebrations, the real education settles in, and in this case, the Holocaust Museums helped represent all the reasons why definite acts should never be forgotten. They guide us to a better future if we are willing to open our eyes to it.
Not realizing the book I had purchased, in a thrift store for $1.99 no less, I poured through a book titled Resistence, by Anita Shreve, and it is just funny how you never know when themes of books, events, celebrations, etc will align with each other. Yet, here was a book taking place in Belgium during World War II reflecting on the atrocities that occur and individuals that risked their lives to fight against the overall theme of a holocaust of groups of people, and they certainly decided to become resistors, while the majority around them chose to be collaborators against a human race. The point is, you never know when elements of events, although seemingly unrelated – will “gel” or synthesize – and that truly is when education occurs.
I know at one time it was determined true grit and responsiblity to be at a job, and remain in that job for your whole life. I am truly grateful that is and has not ever been the case for me. I have found the amazing plethora of unique internships, jobs, and volunteerism I have taken so far in my life have been that very element, diversity that sometimes years later would synthesise together when I least expected it. The same is true of the responsibility of being a teacher, but now as a Media Specialist/Librarian, I am grateful for this position so that I can find so many different avenues of discovery and connect them to a wide range of experiences and make points when least expected. Part of not being able to forget is creating experiences that won’t be forgotten, whether in the classroom, in the work place, or in the day-to-day activities we decide to be involved in. In 2016, it is important to pledge energies to make a better life for yourself and those around you, often defined by the way we spend out time and choose to spend our time. Pledging to take in the widest array of traditions, beliefs, and individuals, to make a better future is not a bad way to initiate a change. Never forgetting in certain cases is the best thing we can do for that. Thank you Holocaust Museum, Mexico, United States, and friends that help me never “forget” that.