Llewellyn might have a series of little books, but they are packed with information! One of the more recent editions is by author Jaime Gironés on The Day of the Dead (also known as Dia de los Muertos).
The book is broken into 6 main chapters including: The History of the Day of the Dead, Death, the Day of the Dead Altar, Celebrating the Day of the Dead, Other Rituals and Activities, and Saying Goodbye to Visiting Spirits.
The first thing the reader see’s when they open the book is a note from the author. In his note, he explains the distinction between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. I think the fear of appropriation may have made some folks shy of adding some of the practices of Dia de los Muertos to their own activities. This book explains how the reader can honor The Day of the Dead respectfully in a spiritual way on their own journey. In essence, Dia de los Muertos is about honoring our ancestors, family and loved ones who have passed on. Author Jaime Gironés guides the reader how to celebrate and honor the dead in this easy to follow guidebook. He shares his memories, stories and experiences that while enjoyable to read, also help the reader find inspiration on how to honor their dead. I love that the author quotes: “Honoring our ancestors and loved ones is also a universal activity; it does not belong to a particular culture or nationality.”
While I personally do not hail from Latin American descent, I have always been fascinated and interested in The Day of the Dead. The author gives many suggestions on how these activities and celebrations can be incorporated into your own path.
The first chapter reviews the history. It was a fascinating read to learn about the past influence all the way to modern practices. There is information that covers different areas of Mexico and how they differ the festivals and celebrations.
The author then moves on to the subject of Death. While in some cultures and communities Death is a somber and sometimes scary event to even talk or think about. In Mexico, they treat Death as a normal cycle of life that is celebrated and normalized. In this next section the author has some great activities involving humanizing Death. I really like the concept of naming Death, laughing with her, imagining what she looks like. When we understand something better, we can let go of our fear. The author shares world beliefs and rituals on the subject of Death where the reader may see some basic patterns linking them together.
The book also reviews the altar with suggestions on what the reader might want to consider adding to it. There are also guidelines how to prepare the altar into the loving celebratory space. While several activities are listed, one of my favorites was a recipe on making Sugar Skulls. These activities the author has listed are a great way to get the entire family involved, especially the children. Celebrating the dead and ancestors helps the children learn early on not to fear Death and accept it is a part of the life cycle.
I loved this Little Book on the Day of the Dead. There is so much packed in a small pocket sized book, that it definitely earns a spot on the bookshelf. I highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn more or how to better honor those who passed before us.
~review by Amber Barnes
Author: Jaime Gironés
Llewellyn Publications, 2021
pp. 180, $13.99