Right now my friends and neighbors to the south are celebrating El Dia de Los Muertos, a holiday observed throughout Mexico and around the world (i.e. Brazil, Spain). Given my unconventional heritage and upbringing, I’ve seen this holiday’s traditions and symbols for as long as I can remember and have always found it quite charming. I’m fond of the colorful displays of artistic skull and skeleton figures and the themed sweet treats (what’s not to love about a skull for dessert?). It’s fantastic to see the heartfelt art and vibrant celebration that goes into a holiday that could easily be dominated by grief, morbidity and quite frankly, a real downer.
The holiday focuses on honoring and remembering friends and family members who have died. It is particularly popular in Mexico, where it’s a government/bank holiday. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas. Holiday traditions include building private altars, ofrendas, bringing sugar skulls, calaveras de azúcar, along with the favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the dearly departed to their grave sites.
Alas, the charm of the Day of the Dead seems to be falling prey to what most holidays have: commercialism. Now one can add a bit of hipster flair when honoring the deceased (or just look like a culturally-insensitive poser year ’round) with el Dia de los Muertos themed travel mugs, iPhone cases, manicure designs, jewelry and more.
Perhaps I shouldn’t rush to judgement; maybe this trend is just fueled by the folk art appeal associated with the holiday and the unique display of skeletons with a colorful festive vibe. But, honestly I think any holiday that’s symbols appear on a tumbler or smartphone has been sold out to hipster commercialism.