Maybe you missed it, but Esther and Jeorge Ramirez of MIlbank would never miss setting up a candlelit altar in their home for Dia de los Muertos. Also called the Day of the Dead, the holiday is a Mexican tradition that Esther and Joerge have been celebrating all their lives.
As they do every year, the couple cooked specialty foods and opened the windows of their home so the spirits of their family members could find their way back to their relatives. This year, their vigil began October 31 at noon, continued on All Saints’ Day on Wednesday, and ended at noon on November 2 – All Souls’ Day.
Garlic, cumin, and exotic spices scented the air and ranchera music kept everyone in an upbeat mood. The altar was filled with oranges, Coca Cola, hearty meat dishes, and other favorite foods and drinks of the deceased in case their spirits got hungry. Photos and items that were important to their ancestors when they were alive dotted the display. Brightly colored flowers are always used in abundance because it is believed their intense perfume helps guide the spirits to their destination.
When the Ramirezes threw open their windows on the first day of the observance, they were beckoning the spirits of the children to join them during the first 24 hours. The spirits of the adults arrived after the youngest spirits had departed.
You might consider dropping by to join the festivities next year – Esther invites everyone to experience the holiday with her family. You can expect both Jeorge and Esther to welcome you with open arms, and Esther will tell you how much the holiday means to her. She will most likely also explain that the lavish amounts of food and flowers placed on the altar are treated with respect after the holiday is over. The family eats the food or shares it with others. The flowers are taken to the Milbank Cemetery to decorate the gravesites.