During the last few days the whole of Mexico has been celebrating the 'Days of the Dead'. During this time the shops and stalls are inundated with decorated skulls, skeletons, sugar skulls, special sweet bread, marigolds, costumes for children to dress up in - some extremely grotesque, and the list goes on. People decorate their houses with ghosts, witches, and terrifying creatures of the night. They build shrines in their houses for loved ones who have died to invite their souls back, placing their loved ones possessions, their favourite foods, sweets, and alcohol on the shrine. They also visit the graves and decorate them, leaving offerings on the grave as well. The traditions of Halloween are mixed with the ancient traditional customs. Although there is some good to be said about the custom of remembering loved ones and the sharing of stories at this time, there is a lot of evil and dark practices that are glorified in the name of 'fun'.
In Nisha and Anya's school, as in most of the schools here, they put on their own festivities and invite the children to dress up and bring in offerings to put at the foot of a shrine. We do not want Nisha and Anya to participate in these celebrations because of all the associations with death and darkness, so instead we decided to have our own party to celebrate life and light.
Nisha wanted to dress up as a princess and have a picnic in the park, which was a great opportunity to explain to all our neighbours what we were doing and why. Their were about 20 children and 10 adults who came, including our two new families, and we had great fun face painting, apple bobbing, playing pass the parcel, musical statues and decorating cakes (well, decorating the cakes and eating the decorations were simultaneous activities!) At the end of the party, Jenny (one of the new missionaries) shared an illustration using a pumpkin to explain how just as a pumpkin can be regenerated in to something that can shine out light and show joy, not fear, so can we be regenerated by Christ by accepting Him in to our lives. He can then clean us on the inside, and shine His light out of us to bring joy and life to all those around. For those Mexicans that are so used to the Halloween and Day of the Dead parties, this party was certainly something different!