We just got back from doing an event at the Zilker Garden in nearby Austin and it never occurred to me, probably because I grew up with the holiday, that day of the dead can sound quite ominous to some people. One guy thought I was a George Romero fan who had gone to far.
I would like to say that Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is really about life after death – but that isn’t quite true since the Aztecs believed that this life was just a dream and that the next life was the real one – so to their understanding it would be the waking life, as opposed to the dream life we are currently experiencing, very similar to the Aboriginal way of thinking. But with the forced incorporation of Christianity into the mix, the ideas behind the holiday have become muddled and mean different things to different people. In Mexico different towns can have different celebrations according to their local customs – although the holiday is always celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.
One thing is clear, Day of the Dead is never intended to be a mournful or harrowing experience. It is always a way of honoring those no longer with us and keeping, family, friends and loved ones together regardless of which existence they are currently experiencing.