As childless young-marrieds we were fascinated by the cultural phenomenon that is Día de los Muertos. It is so interesting to see the colorful altars strewn throughout the city and partake in the delicious pan de muerto, or bread of the dead.
On the other hand, there is an incredible heaviness that accompanies this holiday which is intertwined with the belief that the dead actually physically come back to partake of the altar built in their honor. As I said last week, this celebration has prehispanic origins. It is a perfect example of the syncretism of indigenous religions with Christian beliefs that is a hallmark Mexican Catholocism. Mexicans embrace death in a way that is very different from most Americans, which is not always a bad thing, but the sadness lies in the fact that the victory over death and life through Jesus Christ is all but forgotten. Death rules supreme.
Now, bringing it back to the parenthood aspect, I find that because Día de los Muertos is presented so attractively to children it is hard to explain to a four-year-old why it is as Christians that this is not a celebration we embrace. After our museum visit Eliana surprised me by asking to build our own ofrenda, or offering for the dead. I asked her why she wanted to do so and she told me that she viewed the whole celebration as one big party, and she wanted to partake. I explained to her that as followers of Christ we believe that those who die are with Jesus in a place so wonderful they do not want to leave, and that one day all Christ followers will be together in that wonderful place. I struggled to explain it to her in a way that would not frighten her with some of the deep spiritual darkness that surrounds the practices and beliefs of this holiday. In the end I believe that this will be an ongoing discussion, one that grows in depth as she grows older.
Kevin and I began to realize that, while it is easy for us to hold on to our beliefs as Christians and observe cultural celebrations that hold deep religious significance with objectivity, our children will be initially understanding these celebrations as teachings that they must accept or reject as part of their belief system. It will be impossible for them to avoid exposure, so as a result we must be extra prayerful and intentional about teaching them about Christ and his perspective on these aspects of life here in Mexico. Next time I want to be more prepared, not be taken by surprise. It is a reminder, however, that as a parent I am continually learning and continually in need of grace!