NORTH JAVA —Today means all things Halloween throughout the nation.
But this weekend has rather different meaning for people with Mexican ancestry. And it’s why area farm laborers and their families are invited to “Day of the Dead” celebration Sunday at Holy Family Church.
Or as the church terms it in Spanish, “una misa para todos en Celebracion de Diea de los Santos.”
“I invited parishioners to find photos of their loved ones to set up an altar and bring a personal item that identifies this person,” said Rev. Matt Kawiak. “I will offer a children’s liturgy that will teach this beautiful tradition to our area children and welcome all parents to join our faith community for the celebration.
“Our hope is that the Mexican community will also respond by joining our parish and share their personal stories on how they celebrate this special celebration of life.”
Day of the Dead is an important part of Mexican culture, as families there mark All Souls’ Day, said Sylvia Davis, a migrant outreach worker.
Families put up altars to remember loved ones who have passed away — sometimes simple, and sometimes more elaborate.
Marigolds, incense and a special “bread of the dead” are also part of the altars, along with offerings the loved ones would have appreciated, such as favorite foods or other treats, Davis said.
They also celebrate a Mass, and offer well-loved items at relative’s grave site. And it carries important personal and familial meaning.
It’s believed the deceased loved ones follow the aroma to the altar and visit.
“If you think about it, everybody wants to remember their loved ones,” Davis said. “Everybody has somebody. I lost my brother who’s a year older than me, and I miss him every day. And to have the chance every year to think about what this person meant to you and remember that, it’s very special. It’s very nice, I think.”
The Day of the Dead Mass at Holy Family will be modified slightly, Kawiak said. It won’t feature some of the stronger skull motifs, with more of a focus on loved ones.
A side altar has been set up inside the church, featuring photos and loved ones’ belongings — in Kawiak’s case, a Raggedy Ann doll which belonged to his mother. Instead of being scary like Halloween, it’s a celebration of a loved ones, along with togetherness and community.
The Mass starts 10 a.m. at Holy Family Polish National Catholic Church on 4316 Route 98.
The Lord prays for us as we reflect on Psalm 23:8: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long."
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and all our Mexican friends who celebrate this feast day of All Souls with grace and reverence. May we join them this weekend in remembering the best of those who have gone before us into heaven.