Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day of the Dead - An Altar for my Grandparents

Our Altar for Various Friends and Family
For the first four years I spent November in Mexico, the Day of the Dead was a rich cultural experience, in which I saw many traditions, and even participated, visiting homes and altars, and talking to families who had lost a loved one.  This year, the day had a much closer significance; the first and most important altar we made was for someone very dear to us, who had passed away this year. Yesterday's post was dedicated to this very difficult memory and and the altar we built for him. (Click here to read it.)

My wife and I also made another altar for others who had passed away.  The significance of these two days for us was to remember these people.  So, here I will tell you who they were.

My wife's great aunt and uncle.  Tia Lalita and tio Benjamin were brother and sister, and had passed away in 2009.  When my father-in-law was a child, he lived in their home for many years.  When my wife was a child, they were like grandparents to her, and with several other family members, they were among her closest and dearest relatives.

Ulises and Jorge.  These were two very close friends of my wife.  I believe Ulises passed away in a car accident before I met my wife.  Jorge was her best friend for many years.  He passed away the same year that my son was born, and so my wife choose to give our son his name; I agreed to this since she has very good memories of him as a close and caring friend, and a hard-working and dedicated person.  Unfortunately I never had the pleasure of meeting him, since he passed away only shortly after I met my wife.

My wife's cousin.  I can't remember her name at the moment, but my wife and this cousin had been close many years before.  I know her sisters and parents.

My Grandma and Grandpa Wall.  I have a number of memories of my Grandpa, who passed away over a decade ago.  One is when we went to visit their small home in the town of Walsingham, Ontario, he would go to his bedroom to get candies - I think he kept them in his dresser.  Later on, when we visited my Grandma, and during the time she stayed at my parents' home, I remember her asking frequently why I wasn't married yet.  I believe she would be happy now to know that I finally did get married!  Maybe a little disappointed that I've forgotten how  speak Low German; but one day I hope to fix this too.

A close up of the altar.
My Grandma and Grandpa Janzen.  I only got to know Grandma Janzen.  Grandpa Janzen passed away before I was born, and I've only seen pictures of when he was young (like the passport photo we put on the altar,) so I imagine him as a young man.  I remember visiting Grandma at her home (we put a picture of the house on the altar as well,) and seeing her talk with my parents, aunts and uncles.  I remember her as a serious lady, with the impression that she was dedicated to doing things correctly and traditionally.

For me this year's Day of Dead not simply about following a tradition, but much more about honouring and remembering the lives of people.

To read about the first altar we made this year, and who it was for, click here.
If you would like to know more about some of the traditions involved in the Day of the Dead, click here.

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