Dia de los Muertos

A few nights ago I was driving home from downtown Tulsa, when I glanced to my right for my favorite view of the Tulsa skyline.

In the foreground was an old cemetery that was usually pitch black at night. But on that night there were lights in the graveyard. They were multicolored lights, the the kind you see on Christmas trees, decked over a few of the headstones. I also saw pictures and other items placed about the grave site .

A sure sign of Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that coincides with the three Christians days of Allhallowtide: All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. It is a time for honoring those who have gone before us, as well as contemplating our own mortality.

Families celebrate Dia de los Muertos by visiting graves or building altars in honor of those who have died. They decorate them with favorite food, beverages, or other items of the deceased. There are usually signs of Christian hope: crosses, pictures of Jesus and the saints, our Lady of Guadalupe.

And there are skulls – lots of them. They are not the pale and lifeless skulls of Halloween. No, these “sugar skulls” are bright and colorful, often adorned with flowers.

The Day of the Dead celebrations may coincide with Halloween and have similarities. Both celebrations include costumes, treats, skeletons and graveyards. The imagery of both holidays force us to confront our mortality and fear of death – but I think Dia de los Muertos does so in a much more joyful way. Graveyards are the occasion for feasts and recalling happy memories with loved ones. The signs of death are decorated with signs of new life.  Without glossing the darker side of life, the holiday embodies Christian hope.

We made our own ofrenda nichos.


Sophie and I visited the Tulsa Dia de los Muertos festival.