Rev. Michelle's Message October 21, 2021

The Days of the Dead have arrived at Unity of Monterey Bay! Our beautiful communal altar is up in the sanctuary and is already filling up with so many wonderful photographs! You may continue to bring in your photographs and mementos for inclusion on our altar up until October 31.

You may have noticed that there are more Day of the Dead-themed products available this year than ever before. The sugar skull motif is showing up everywhere—in Target, Cost Plus, the Dollar Store, Trader Joe’s, even Safeway. Clearly, this has become a very popular holiday here in California, and is being enjoyed by Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike. I think this is absolutely wonderful to the extent that it helps to expand people’s awareness and appreciation of the rich, beautiful, vibrant Mexican culture. On the other hand, I worry that it is becoming so commercialized that it may be losing some of its deep meaning. At UMB we are doing our part by educating ourselves a bit more each year about what Day of the Dead is all about, its rich historical roots and symbolism, and how it is celebrated in different parts of Mexico. In this way, we are helping to keep the original meaning of the holiday alive and are approaching our own observance of it with knowledge, intention, and respect.

This Friday at 6 pm will be our Day of the Dead Craft and Cultural Evening. We have a fun evening planned: first, we’ll learn a little bit about how Day of the Dead is celebrated in Oaxaca, watch a short video, and learn a few Day of the Dead-related Spanish vocabulary words. Then, we will paint frames to hold the photograph of our departed loved one(s), which we will place on our communal altar. Finally, we will enjoy some special Oaxacan treats and you’ll have the opportunity to participate in our chapulín challenge! I hope to see many of you there!

Next Friday, October 29, at 6 pm we will gather to watch the movie Coco—a fun, meaningful, visually stunning movie that never fails to elicit tears in most of us. Pizza and popcorn will be included! Then, on Sunday, October 31, we will have our annual Day of the Dead Remembrance and Candle-lighting Ceremony. This meaningful ritual gives us an opportunity to remember our departed loves ones and honor their memory by lighting a candle and offering a blessing. By participating in this ritual each year, we are learning how to grieve communally, sharing and connecting deeply with one another through our common human experience of loss. The tradition of the Day of the Dead provides the backdrop for our celebration and as we examine the Mexican perspective on death, we learn new ways of looking at and understanding our own mortality and the impermanence of life. May we heed the words of the celebrated Mexican poet, Octavio Paz, who said: “A civilization that denies death ends up denying life.”

If you’d like to learn more about Day of the Dead, here is a link to a very short (2 min), high-quality video from National Geographic that will give you a basic overview of the holiday: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/video/what-day-dead/. Here is another really good one that’s a little bit longer (5 min) and talks more about the Mexican way of seeing life and death: https://youtu.be/8FHrhH9k-PY.

Many Blessings, Rev. Michelle