Dia de Los Muertos is an ancient Aztec celebration of death, the bittersweet companion to life. All life must come to an end, so why not celebrate death as we do life? As the Europeans arrived in Mexico, both the Catholic religion and the Aztec celebration intertwined. Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated on from October 31 to November 2. In these days the lives of our dead are celebrated. These celebrations include festivities, food, a family altar, sharing favorite stories of the deceased and joyful visits to the grave sites. In the United States families of Mexican descent are celebrating Dia de Los Muertos more and more each year, making for Dia de Los Muertos in becoming a widely popular holiday.
Our family celebrates this yearly tradition with a week long celebration of honoring our loved ones with a family altar. In our altar we showcase favorite family photos of our departed, papel picado, candy skulls, flowers and personal mementos. Tiny sculptures of their favorite food or beverage made of Alfenique are also placed on the altar. During this festive week we as a family recreate their favorite meals to enjoy as we share their lives with our children. This week long celebration fills my heart with great joy as I honor my departed all while introducing my children to loved ones they were not fortunate to meet. As my children grow they will in turn gain knowledge of their heritage and begin learning how to cope with future loss as our altar continues the addition of family members. I hope when they are adults they will learn to celebrate death as part of life, knowing that each year on Dia de Los Muertos our departed with return to shower us with love.
On this post I honor my grandfather, Abuelito Angel. My grandfather was the epitome of what every grandchild wishes their grandparent to be. He was kind, gentle and funny soul who always put his family first. He was strict in raising his children with a sense of pride in work, family and heritage. What I remember most from my summer visits was his daily nap on his lazy boy recliner. My sister and I would entertain ourselves in the living room as he napped with his feet raised and his thunderous snoring in the backdrop as we played with our barbies. Getting bored quickly of dolls we would try to venture outside without waking him, but he always heard us. He would laugh loudly jump to his feet and offer to take us to the nighborhood store down the road for a candy fix.
As we walked we would stop as he loved chatted with everyone who lived on his street. My grandfather always prepped for our arrival having fresh pan dulce, bananas and cold sunny delight for our time with him. As far as the sunny delight goes I still to this day cannot enjoy the taste, but did I drink the glass when he served me? Oh yes, he’s my abuelito, I drank it happily. I do owe him my love for pan dulce, as he introduced me to my favorite piece (more on that later). I loved my summer’s spent at my grandfather’s house which makes me even happier to be living closer to my grandmother. As I visit with her as my childhood memories flood back. I love you Abuelito Angel, you are missed, loved and honored this Dia de Los Muertos.
My grandfather loved fried chicken. I present you a plate of freshly fried chicken dipped in whipped egg (like chiles rellanos) then bathed in a nutty sauce of peanuts and almonds. Served over sauteed cabbage a perfect dish for my Abuelito. Enjoy and visit us tommorrow as we continue our Dia de Los Muertos celebration!
~ Sweet Life
This recipe was originally published in October 2010 on Sweet Life