Thursday, 8 November 2012

Dia de los Muertos Celebration ~ Day of the Dead... with a toddler.

Each year we have a Mexican pot luck to encourage our friends to join us for Dia de los Muertos. This is not a celebration of heritage (although there is most likely a past life connection happening here) but a lesson taken from those who know how to pay tribute to the dead with a proper celebration, something I think we should all do. I try to do it year round, but having the party allows us to share, and to celebrate, on a larger scale. 

But... ever try getting ready for a big party with a one year old tugging on your leg? It's next to impossible.

I learned from having one around during another party I decorated for, that everything takes WAY longer. So paper flowers and poms were made and hung a couple days ahead of time (TIP#1), losing only one to the impatient hands of a 15 month old. 

My child's Hallowe'en costume could have passed for a raver with the amount of glitter she had on her body from her new passionate love of sparkly skulls, (I'm not sure where she gets that from) but we got them all up.

The day of the party we got up early, baked the cake and finished hanging decorations. I tried to clean the house but with a toddler trailing behind me and undoing most of what I had accomplished I admitted defeat. Thankfully help was coming (TIP#2 - hire a housekeeper to come in the morning of the party).

While the house was being cleaned we went out and grabbed ourselves lunch, and picked fresh flowers for the altar so when we returned we could start cooking. (TIP#3 - prepare as much food in the couple days leading up to the party as possible. Nothing quite says "welcome" like hiding in the kitchen still rolling enchiladas an hour into the feast.)

Two wonderful friends came to hang out in shifts (TIP#4) and played with the terror toddler, while I finished preparing things. 

2 days or 10 hours later, depending on how you look at it, the ancestor altar was lit, skeleton lanterns glowed and sparkly skulls adorned windows, staircases and tables. The papel picado and paper flowers were hung, an eclectic mix of Mexican music played through our speakers,sangria marinated and enchilada sauce simmered on the stove awaiting guests. 

November 2nd, Dia de los Muertos - Day of the Dead. Finally, the time had arrived to invite our ancestors to cross the veil and feast with us, to dance with us, to share a drink, and allow us to honor them with remembrance. Extra pillows were placed around the house so the dead could rest after their long journey and banners were hung to welcome them...

A cake was made in their honor (recipe below)

And a small table in the entry way served as a place where people could be alone for a moment to write a note to loved ones. They were all placed in a container, which I will take to the cemetery and burn at the crossroads, asking guardians of the crossroads and of the gates to the Otherworld, to deliver the messages to the dead. 

Guests were encouraged to bring offerings for those that have passed, and photos to display. We shared stories about those we were remembering - something next year I think we'll do on a larger scale - and we feasted, we drank, we played, and mostly... we remembered.
Poppet helping set up the ancestor altar and making a toast to her great grandpa

Cake recipe:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree or cooked mashed pumpkin
Combine sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl; mix well. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl; stir into oil mixture, beating well. Stir in pumpkin puree.
Pour batter into two greased and floured skull pan (or two round pans). Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes for round pans - 45-50 for deeper skull pan - some ovens may take up to an hour... just keep doing the tooth pick trick every 5 minutes until it comes out clean. Turn out onto racks to cool.
Put two halves together with your favorite icing or just toothpicks (what I did) and sprinkle with icing sugar - stuff flowers into eye sockets TAAAADAAA!

No comments:

Post a Comment