Day of the Dead 2018: Oaxaca

How do we deal with death? Should we fear it? Avoid discussing it? These seem like foolish ideas, considering how inevitable death is: from the moment we’re born, from those first gulps of oxygen that open the door to life, we also begin dying. No matter what, death takes us in the end. So what if we looked at it a bit less… grimly?

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I’ve always had an immense admiration for Mexico’s Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead (as readers of Pale Highway probably figured out). In the last few years, Veronica and I have made a point to mark the occasion by remembering the loved ones we’ve lost. To truly understand a tradition, though, I think it’s important to go back to its roots. So back in late October, we took a trip down to Oaxaca, Mexico, to experience Día de Muertos firsthand.

Oaxaca is an amazing location, on its own, but everything lights up during Day of the Dead in a way that has to be seen to be believed. Altars commemorating lost family members are everywhere. Costumed parades cheer, dance, and play brass instruments across the neighborhoods, all night long. Grinning skeletons hang from balconies, windowsills, and doorways. Candles light up the cemeteries, and bands play through the evening, as everyone comes together to honor the ones they’ve lost, to grieve, to celebrate their lives, and to recognize death—not as something to fear, but as an integral part of what makes life meaningful. image (8)

This sort of realization—to love life, to smile through death, to dance with the skeletons instead of running from them—is something that anyone, in any culture, can learn from. Thank you, Oaxaca, for showing us what an amazing holiday this really is.

Happy Holidays, 2017!

So the time of the holidays is upon us! Whatever traditions you follow, and/or holidays you happen to celebrate, I hope you all are enjoying the season in whatever way you, your family, and your friends enjoy!

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As you can see, here in New Hampshire we’ve followed our usual ritual of creating a “Phoenix Tree,” by finding a dead tree in the woods, and “bringing it back to life.” Here is the end result:

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So enjoy the season, share good times with everyone you love, and let’s march onward to the next year. Cheers, everyone!

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Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

There’s a reason that places like Portland, Phoenix, Denver, and the state of Vermont have all moved to rename Columbus Day. Aside from the moral necessity of having a day to recognize the indigenous peoples of the Americas, it’s also because Christopher Columbus is far from the heroic figure that he’s all too often painted as; I won’t go into a long diatribe about his many violent and terrible actions — there are plenty of articles online, for those curious to research the matter — but instead, will simply agree with the growing consensus that today’s holiday should honor not him, but the people who were on the American continents to begin with.

So happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day to all, and celebrate it however you wish! Cheers, and I hope all of you have a great day (at least, those among you who are on this continent; for all of you guys overseas, enjoy your Monday!).