Thoughts on Dia de los Muertos

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the historical back ground of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. This holiday has long been celebrated in Mexico as a unique and colorful event to honor and remember relatives who have died. When the Spaniards introduced Catholicism to Mexico, the native peoples decided to blend the new religion with the old and came up with this festival celebrating the Aztec goddess, Mictecacihuatl (goddess of death) and the Catholic traditions of All Saints Day (remembering our loved ones who have gone to heaven) and All Souls Day (praying for all souls). These three remembrances, are celebrated on October 31st, November 1st and 2nd.

Image by  Andy Giraud  from  Pixabay

Image by Andy Giraud from Pixabay

The reason I began to take an interest in Dia de los Muertos was because of my grandson and the movie Coco. If you have not seen that movie, it is a fun, family film with good music, action and some very moving moments about the love between family, both the living and the dead. In true Dia de los Muertos tradition Miguel’s dead relatives are able to cross over on that one day to visit their living relatives. The living relatives do not know they are there, but the idea is that in remembering them, they are kept alive, even beyond the veil, or the bridge as it is portrayed in this movie.

Image by  Andrew Martin  from  Pixabay

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Obviously, as a Christ follower, I do not believe that our relatives are all having a party over on the other side. I believe the spiritual realm to be a bit more complex and holy, because of the God who reigns there. I also believe that not everyone, necessarily ends up in the “good place” (another show, that I would recommend watching, because it is funny and it has some very thought provoking philosophical and moral content. Only for adults.) Death is part of this life, but it wasn’t supposed to be. The psalmist knew this reality of death.

Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
8 for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
9 that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.

10 For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
11 Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
12 Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish.
— Psalm 49:7-12 (ESV)

The psalmist knew that one day every single one of us will see death. There is no way out of it. You can search for the fountain of youth, but that didn’t work out very well for Donovan, did it?

You can also eat healthy, exercise and do everything in your power to live to be as old as you can, but the reality is, you will still die. Death is something we all have in common. Death can be scary. The process or the thought of how we will die can be overwhelming, but death is part of life.

The book of Romans in the New Testament of the Bible talks about another death, the spiritual one.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
— Romans 5:12 (ESV)

This death is the one that not only separates us on that bridge from our loved ones, but separates us from the God who created us, the Savior who loved enough to die for us and the Spirit who so willingly comes to dwell with and in us.

The good news is, in the same way Miguel found out in CoCo, that in remembering, his relatives lived on, it is in our remembering and partaking of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we too will live on forever in our spiritual bodies with Him.

It is easy, as Christians to find fault with every religion and way of thinking other than our own, but what we need to do is examine each thing that comes into our lives with God’s microscope, learning what we can from every situation and thought process that we encounter. For me, I am going to celebrate Dias de los Muertos, by remembering in two ways.

1 - Remembering Jesus.

It was Jesus that made it possible for us to cross the bridge that separated us from our Creator. His shed blood on the cross is the payment that had to be made to stand before a Holy, Pure God.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
— Romans 6:5 (ESV)
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
— Romans 6:9 (ESV)
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
— Romans 6:10 (ESV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23 (ESV)

2 - Celebrating those who have gone on before us.

I find the idea of remembering my relatives an exciting prospect. My grandson knows very little about my father, who had passed away four years before Quintin was born. I thought it would be fun to share old photos and have some of my dad’s favorite snacks. like salty, hot buttered popcorn, and pretzel sticks. It might not be a bad idea to make Dias de los Muertos a regular part of our family celebrations as a way to share memories, food, fun, laughter and love.