Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pan de Muerto - The Bread of Death

Today in Los Angeles is the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. Wikipedia has this to say:
Five hundred years ago, the Spanish Conquistadors that landed in Mexico encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual that the natives had been practicing at least 3,000 years and is today known as Día de Muertos. The natives, unlike the Spaniards, viewed death as life continued. Instead of being afraid of death, they celebrated it. To them, life was a dream and in death they become truly awake. Today, Día de Muertos is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States.
Plans for the festival are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. One of these foods is called Pan de Muerto, or Bread of Death. The Global Gourmet tells us more:
Day of the Dead, or el Dia de los Muertos, is a happy celebration in Mexico. That's when the souls of the dearly departed return home to the world of the living. All of them. From Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, they descend upon their families and for two days, November 1 and 2, they rejoice together.

The tradition dates back to the Aztec civilization. Coincidentally or not, these days are also the Catholic holy days of All Saints' and All Souls' days. In Mexican culture, the lines between ancient folklore and the customs of the Spanish Conquistadors frequently blur.

Preparations for the most important holidays of the year, the Days of the Dead, begin weeks in advance. Statues, candies, breads and other gifts known to please Los Muertos fill the marketplaces, and are consumed by the living with as much fervor as we do our own Christmas goods. Both the spirits and the economy get a boost at this time of year.
"Give me bread and sugar to help me on my journey to the next level," say the Dead before burial. The bread of the dead, pan de muerto, is sweet and baked expressly for the Days of the Dead holiday. Bring some home to your mother, serve some to your guests. See the pretty colored sugar on top? Notice those bumps - they remind us of the bones of the Dead.

They even give us a recipe for Pan de Muerto. I guess the mixture of indiginous and Catholic culture somehow meld to bring us this holiday reminiscent of Halloween. They are both similar in that they both draw from traditions of both pagan and Christian theology. Like Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is a great opening to a spiritual conversation. By talking to people about the holiday, you can find almost as many thoughts about the afterlife as there are people. Many misunderstandings from both traditions come together to completely blur the truth.

One great lead-in would be to contrast the Bread of Death, to the Bread of Life, Jesus. In John 6 we see:
35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
Rather than treat death as some sort of party for those departed relatives, we should clearly communicate the truth that every man has an appointment with death and then comes judgment. We don't get to come back and party with our descendents once a year and eat cake. We will face a just, holy, perfect God who will give unto every man according to what he has done.

Those who have repented and placed their faith in the Savior, those who have come to the Bread of Life, will never hunger again and will never thirst. So, today, instead of it being the Day of Death, make it the Day of Salvation.

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