In America, especially in the Latino countries, we celebrate the Day of the Dead or All Hallows Eve, commonly known as Halloween. This year, I’d like to invite you to throw a different type of party for your Halloween celebration. I’ll give you a summary here. If you get inspired, download the PDF for detailed ceremonial and spiritual information and party ideas.
I’d like to reveal how you can have a party with your Ancestors… your dead ancestors. Why should you do this? There are four very good reasons to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
- To express appreciation
- To heal any unfinished business
- To repair Family Karma, and
- To celebrate them and the love that unites you all
In the following pages I’ll share with you how to prepare your celebration for the Day of the Dead. There are certain things that are essential and important.
This mostly refers to four things:
- The spirit of love, joy and gratitude
- Certain structural elements to guarantee the spiritual quality of the celebration
- The order of events for natural progression
- Certain offerings of love, beauty and celebration that will please the spirits
Everything else is optional and you can use your creativity.
If you have kids, you’ll want to enjoy the Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating with them. You can prepare for your day of the Dead Celebration before and then start the ceremony after the kids’ trick-or-treat, after putting them to bed; or you can include your kids if they are more open and won’t be scared or overwhelmed.
You can do the celebration alone or with the company of trusted family or friends who understand the intention and will not get scared or skeptic. Do not invite anyone who is skeptical. Their closed attitude will block the communication with the spirits. This communication requires an open heart and mind. You must be receptive. If the Ego mind is protective, it will not allow you to receive the effluvia or Presence of the departed loved ones.
Fear not. You are calling on the spirit of your loved ones. There is nothing to fear. All is love.
As long as your loved one is present in your heart, they still walk the earth. As long as they are remembered with love, they still retain an energy chord to you, even though they are no longer the individual consciousness you knew as dad, mom, grandma or uncle. All Hallows Eve can be a sort of Thanksgiving for those who have left this plane.
To express appreciation, you throw a party for your Ancestors. You can do it alone or with other family members or friends. In this article I give you the basic knowledge to throw your Day of the Dead Party.
Altar for the Dead
The basic structure for the Day of the Dead Celebration is an altar for The Dead. You can use a table, platform or stairs. You can also place everything in the floor. This is not disrespectful. The Dead are traditionally connected to the Earth and love the ground.
You can place the altar in a corner, leaving space to dance and play music around it. If you can, place the altar close to the dinner table so that The Dead and the Living can share a meal.
In Mexico, the table is set on the patio or yard and an arch of intertwined branches is decked with flowers and wired to the table. Paper bags are filled with sand and candles placed in the center, carefully lit up, forming a path towards the table.
The Mexicans are the masters of celebrating the Day of the Dead! They make it a big event and many go to the cemetery to celebrate it. You can see the cemeteries decked with flowers, candles and food at this time of the day. The Mexicans also create beautiful motifs, art and symbols that are placed in the altar, especially skeletons, which are the central motif for this day.
In your altar for the Dead, you can also place their images or photos or other memorabilia that belonged to them or reminds you of them.
You also lay the flowers, food and other offerings and the other things that The Dead love and I describe below.
You can combine this celebration with the Halloween tradition of wearing costumes by creating a competition on Calavera Make-up.
The best make-up of a Day of the Dead Skull wins a prize. The best overall costume, including what the calavera wears, gets another price. This makes it fun and humorous, which is how you take fear and sadness out of the equation.
What The Dead Love
Here are some things that Spirits love and will attract them like honey attracts the bees.
- A great dinner cooked with love for them. It’s the love and the memory, of course, what the spirits love. But figure it out: they can’t enjoy the pleasure of eating anymore, so they want to get at least a sniff of their favorite food! You may make their favorite dishes or a traditional cultural dish. I usually make arroz con gandules, a Puerto Rican dish. In some traditions, the food that is assign for The Dead is spared the salt, as it is said to scared spirits away. I don’t eat with salt, so I make one big cauldron for all and the live guests who want salt can add it later. You may want to ask for guidance and follow your intuition. More about the dinner below.
- Their favorite drinks. This can include coffee, rum or other alcoholic beverages, coke or other sodas and always a glass of fresh water. There’s a reason why alcoholic beverages are called spirits. They have potent organic chemicals that can be “smelled” and almost “touched” by the spirit, so that they can feel your offering. And it’s great to serve alcohol to Uncle Fred without having to worry about his alcoholism. Of course, if you are off alcohol you can skip this part. They won’t mind because they show up for you.
- Their favorite treats. Make that cake that Auntie Laurel loved. Have chocolate chip cookies for mom and Flan for dad. You don’t have to make large amounts and you can take turns pleasing one of them each year, if making too many dishes is stressful to you. Oh, yes! Have lots of candies, especially if there are children among the dead or for those who died before birth. Just add a bag to the ones you’ll use for the treat-or-trickers.
- And lots of flowers. Spirits love flowers! Traditionally in Latin America you offer flowers of three colors: red for life, yellow for joy and white for spirit. In Mexico marigolds and sunflowers are offered. In Puerto Rico, pompoms are offered. Irises are also a traditional flower for the dead.
- Music: Spirits love music, especially uplifting and harmonious music. (More about this below.)
- Incense: Spirits “drink” incense. It seems that smell is the one sense that it somehow retained, though it’s more like osmosis. They love fragrant smells that are organic, especially essential oils, flowers and incense that are spiritually uplifting, such as frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, lavender and patchouli. They may also feel attracted to the fragrance of their favorite perfume or cologne.
- Empty space, harmony, cleanliness and beauty. Spirits love empty spaces. In the Tibetan Shambala tradition, it is said that the Dralas, the Spirit of the Place, will dance around an object if you leave space around it. Harmony is not only present in music. It is an emotion and a vibrational frequency. A harmonious setting generates the vibration of harmony.
Beauty, cleanliness, order and harmony will help you set the stage for a great party for The Dead. Avoid chaos, filth, clutter and disorder as this is said to attract similar energies. (See more on this below.)
Though, to be honest, I’ve thrown a party for my Ancestors in the middle of moving and at times where I didn’t have the time or energy to do a big cleaning. In those occasions, I simply did the best I can. I placed bright-colored sarongs over the boxes and tidy up some clutter so they’re would be empty space.
This is a party, so avoid stress and focus on joy. After all, they are family, so you can relax a bit if your setting is not perfect. Love is the most important setting. Joy is the essential atmosphere.
Dinner, however, is the last part of the celebration. Before you serve the food, the party starts by you lighting a candle and calling their names. Make a list of all the departed family and friends, so you don’t forget. You may want to contact the elders to get the names of those who you did not know.
Once you call their names, you pray or talk to them. Here are some good things to express:
- Gratitude to each of the ones you knew
- Wish them spiritual evolution in whatever path they are now.
- Pray for their elevation and detachment from their previous life, so that they can move on.
And here’s one rule: No crying.
When you are praying for or talking with the dead, do it in the spirit of love, gratitude and celebration. No crying. If you cannot hold the tears, excuse yourself and go cry. Then come back and continue the conversation. You are crying for two things:
- For yourself, because you don’t have the physical comfort of that person’s presence, and
- For the old form and personality of the spirit, which she or he has now left or is trying to leave.
By crying for her old form, you do not help her evolve and detach from the past. It’s as if a loved one had gotten married or found the job of their dream somewhat far from you and you started crying in their celebration party. That’s not going to help them in their advance.
Remember that emotions are powerful electromagnetic waves that attract same frequency forces. If you allow yourself to get depressed, mournful and fall into fear-based constrictive emotions, you will scare the evolved spirits away and attract the same fear-based frequencies. Stay in the love frequency!
This is an opportunity to connect with the Essence of those you loved and have gone from the physical plane, to feel their evergreen Presence in your life. Prepare your mindset towards this goal, and the Day of the Dead will become one of your favorite celebrations!