Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life
Even though it has its roots in pre-Hispanic times, the Day of the Dead received Christian elements after the Spanish Conquest and now is celebrated with Masses and vigils in parishes and dioceses in Latin America and the United States.
The Day of the Dead is traditionally celebrated on November 2nd, the day the Catholic Church remembers the souls of all the faithfully departed, who continue to be members of the Church, children of the same Father. This festivity has some Christian symbolism and is characterized by mounting colorful altares at which families place a picture of their deceased loved one (reminding us of the Communion of Saints), his or her favorite food (another sign of communion), a special sweet bread called Pan de Muerto, (pointing to the Eucharist in which we eat the Bread of Life), Cempasúchil or marigolds (symbolizing that God gives life to our souls), and candles (lighting the road so souls can reach the divine light of Heaven). This is an occasion full of color and light, during which families gather to remember those who went before us on the way to Eternal Life.
Father Rogelio Alcántara published an article for the Archdioceses of Mexico in which he says that placing an altar on this day can remind us to “do a work of mercy for our beloved dead: pray to the triune God for their salvation; go to Confession and participate in the Mass to obtain a plenary indulgence on their behalf.”
This celebration is so popular in the Church in countries like Mexico that even the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City places an altar every year to remember our faithfully departed.
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