Acknowledging The Ancestors On The Day Of The Dead

Halloween, All Saints Day, and November 2–All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead (Giorno dei Morti, or in Sicilian, Un juornu re muorti)–mark the end of the agricultural year and recognize the delicate boundary between the living and the dead. In pre-Christian times, a similar set of Roman-era feast days called Lamuria were celebrated to soothe the spirits of deceased ancestors, though they took place in mid-May. (Centuries ago, the Catholic church appropriated the pagan feast and moved the observances to November 1st and 2nd.) Fast forward to modern times and Sicilians spend these days recognizing their dead loved ones by visiting their graves in tribute.

I’ve spent the last couple of days reviewing hundreds of old family photographs–my way of connecting to my ancestors. This photo is of my paternal great grandparents (grandmother’s side). I never met my bisnonna Anna or my bisnonno Pietro. Nor did I ever meet my other set of Sicilian great grandparents Caterina and Stefano; however, I know that their essence exists in who I am. Since first walking the streets of Bagheria and Porticello nearly 25 years ago, I have gained a strong sense of my roots that has given me the ability look backwards with pride and look forwards with wonder. And today, in the present, during these difficult days, I am inspired by the fortitude I see in their eyes.

I’d say, the Day of the Dead is really for us, the living. Have you old photos of your ancestors that illustrate for you such inspiration? If you are inclined, please share!

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