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La Villita Day of the Dead Festival

We have been living in San Antonio for about 6 months now and We are still discovering new things about the city and what it has to offer. We really like it here! I was very pleased to learn about the La Villita Day of the Dead Festival that took place Oct. 28.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the whole thing, I just wanted the kids to see a big altar and maybe do some fun crafts. Boy was I wrong!!

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

There was an altar contest, where schools, organizations, and artists created their own altars honoring a special person. There was also a good variety of Latino local business offering anything from jewelry, clothing to painting and pottery. Of course there was face painting and sugar skull decorating.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

There were also food tents, though not many vegan options, and a tent selling pan de muerto. The live music set the mood for the whole thing, but the best part was seeing Mexican culture celebrated and honored.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

The event itself was well organized and really well setup, but if you plan on going next year, be sure to get there early so you can find parking.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

Unfortunately, we missed the procession that takes place in the evening, but maybe next year. I could go on, but all you need to know you can get from the beautiful pictures of the event. I hope you were able to celebrate the Day of the Dead in your own way, and share in this beautiful Mexican tradition.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival (Festival del Día de los Muertos)

La Villita, south of the River Walk in downtown San Antonio, was originally settled nearly 300 years ago as one of the city’s first neighborhoods. In 1939, La Villita Historic Arts Village was established and the neighborhood was adapted into a center for teaching regional arts and crafts and to serve as an artists market.

Address

418 Villita
San Antonio, Texas 78205

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Vegan Chocolate and Amaranth Skulls

The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life, and a mocking of death and the power it holds over us. The indigenous people of Mexico believed that death was not an end, but a passageway to another life. El Día de los Muertos is a homecoming festival, where we receive our loved ones with open arms, and party like only Mexicans now how to, with food, color, music, and dance.

 

Altars are used to honor those that have departed, and there are many traditional elements that must come together to create an altar worthy of our ancestors. One of these elements are candy skulls.The use of sugar or amaranth skulls can be traced back to pre-hispanic times, and historians believe that human blood might have been used to form the amaranth skulls. Today you can find colorfully decorated skulls made out of sugar, honey and amaranth, and chocolate and amaranth.

Over the years I have slowly found ways to veganize some of our food traditions. We have made vegan pan de muerto, sugar skulls, and candied pumpkin. This year we made vegan chocolate and amaranth skulls, which are decorated with colorful royal icing, are very easy to do, and are quite delicious! Unlike the sugar skulls which are used mostly for decorations, these are meant to be eaten.

To make these you will need a skull mold, vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips, and popped amaranth. You can pop the amaranth yourself, or you can buy it already popped. I found mine at a Mexican candy store and ended up buying way too much! The chocolate takes about 30 minutes to set, and they hold for up to 3 days if you store in an air tight container.

The Recipe: Vegan Chocolate and Amaranth Skulls

For the vegan chocolate you can use the enjoy life brand which is certified vegan or Guittards, if none of those are available in your area, there are other options. I bought my skull molds on mexicansugarskulls.com. Enjoy!

Vegan chocolate and amaranth skulls for the day of the dead with colorful royal icing, very easy to do, and are quite delicious!
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Vegan Chocolate and Amaranth Skulls

Vegan chocolate and amaranth skulls for the day of the dead with colorful royal icing, very easy to do, and are quite delicious! 
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 large skulls (front only)
Author Dora S.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Vegan Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 1/4 cups Popped amaranth

Royal Icing

  • 3 floz. Aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas) (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp.)
  • 4-5 cups Powdered sugar
  • 4 Food coloring of choice

Equipment

  • 1 Skull mold
  • 4 Pieces of cardboard (4.5 X 4.5 inches)
  • 4 Disposable piping bags

Preparation

  1. Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl and melt over a double boiler until all the chocolate has melted. You can also melt it in 30 sec. intervals in the microwave, making sure to stir between each interval.

  2. Pour popped amaranth into the bowl with the chocolate and mix well. with a wooden spoon, to incorporate.

  3. Wet the mold a little bit with a moistened paper towel and press the amaranth chocolate mix into the mold. 

  4. Press the cardboard square against the mold and flip the mold, to have the skull facing you. Lift the mold, and carefully place the cardboard with the skull on it on a sheet tray.
  5. Repeat this process with the rest of the mix. Let chocolate set for 30 min.

Royal Icing

  1. While de chocolate is setting, in a large bowl, lightly beat the aquafaba until it starts to bubble. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar and mix well. Test the consistency of the icing on a plate. It should be thick enough that it doesn’t slide down the plate easily. If it seems too thin, add 1 more cup of powdered sugar. The consistency should be considerably thicker than the icing used to decorate cookies.

  2. Separate the icing into 4 small bowls. Add your food coloring of choice and mix well.
  3. Pour each bowl of icing into a disposable piping bag. Secure with a rubber band, and cut a tiny bit off of the tip of the bag. Test the amount of icing that comes out before decorating your skull.
  4. Decorate your skull however you desire. The icing will take about 30 min. to set.

Chef's Notes

For the vegan chocolate you can use the enjoy life brand which is certified vegan or Guittards, if none of those are available in your area, there are other options. I bought my skull molds on mexicansugarskulls.com.

You can pop the amaranth yourself, or you can buy it already popped.

 

 

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Day of the Dead Vegan Sugar Skulls

Things are getting busy around here. Halloween is right around the corner, and so is the Day of the Dead. This has become one of our favorite family traditions, and so every year we make vegan sugar skulls, and pan de muerto for our altar. The skulls are very easy to do, and the kids really enjoy making them (the adults do too!)

Making vegan sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead is one of our favorite family traditions. The kids love it, and the adults too!!!

Last year I perfected the recipe for the vegan version of the sugar skulls, and I couldn’t be happier. Usually, the preparation requires meringue powder or egg whites, but I am using aquafaba with great results. It is definitely more affordable than using meringue powder, and you can make hummus with the chickpeas.

Making vegan sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead is one of our favorite family traditions. The kids love it, and the adults too!!!

This year I have been very conflicted. As you probably already know, el Día de los Muertos is going mainstream. I don’t know how I feel about that. A part of me is excited that more people can get to know Mexican culture, but another part of me wants to scream, ” No, this is cultural appropriation!” I don’t know, what do you think? I guess all I can do, is do my part in helping others understand the beauty of the tradition. Last year I invited some friends over to make the sugar skulls, and then we read the book The Day of the Dead by Bob Barner.

Ok, so let’s get down to business. I recorded a small video for you with the whole process.

The Recipe: Day of the Dead Vegan Sugar Skulls

We don’t usually eat the sugar skulls, but you can if you want to. We use them for decoration. I purchased my molds from mexicansugarskulls.com, way back when nobody else was selling them, but now you can easily find them on Amazon. If you live in a humid climate the sugar skulls will take longer to dry, and you will most likely have to add less aquafaba.

Making vegan sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead is one of our favorite family traditions. The kids love it, and the adults too!!!

Making vegan sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead is one of our favorite family traditions. The kids love it, and the adults too!!!
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Day of the Dead Vegan Sugar Skulls

Total Time 2 days
Servings 5 people
Author Dora S.

Ingredients

Skulls:

  • 6 cups Sugar, granulated
  • 4 tbsp. Aquafaba, (liquid from can of chickpeas)

Royal Icing:

  • 3 floz. (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp.) Aquafaba
  • 4-5 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 4 Food coloring of choice

Equipment:

  • 2 Sugar skull molds- front and back
  • 5 Card board squares 4.5 X 4.5 inches
  • 4 Disposable pastry bags
  • Sequins

Preparation

Sugar Skulls

  1. In a large bowl, lightly beat the aquafaba until it starts to bubble.
  2. Pour in the sugar, and use your hand to mix well and incorporate the sugar and the aquafaba. It should have the consistency of wet sand, almost like you are going to build a sand castle.
  3. Make sure your mold is clean and dry. Press the sugar mix into the mold. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the sugar from the back of the skull. This will make the skull less heavy.
  4. Press the cardboard square against the mold and flip the mold, to have the skull facing you. Lift the mold, and carefully place the cardboard with the skull on it on a sheet tray.
  5. Repeat this process with the rest of the sugar. If you want to make a complete sugar skull use both the skull molds.
  6. Leave to dry for at least 24 hours.

Royal Icing

  1. The next day, in a large bowl, lightly beat the aquafaba until it starts to bubble. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar and mix well. Test the consistency of the icing on a plate. It should be thick enough that it doesn’t slide down the plate easily. If it seems too thin, add 1 more cup of powdered sugar. The consistency should be considerably thicker than the icing used to decorate cookies.

  2. Separate the icing into 4 small bowls. Add your food coloring of choice and mix well.
  3. Pour each bowl of icing into a disposable piping bag. Secure with a rubber band, and cut a tiny bit off of the tip of the bag. Test the amount of icing that comes out before decorating your skull.
  4. Decorate your skull however you desire. I like to use sequins for the eyes. Let dry 24 hours.

Making a complete skull

  1. If you are making complete skulls, leave some of the royal icing white, and use it to glue the front and back of the skull, after it has dried for the initial 24 hours. After you have glued it together, let dry a bit before decorating it.

Chef's Notes

If you live in a humid climate the sugar skulls will take longer to dry, and you will most likely have to add less aquafaba. The longer you let the skulls dry the better. The sugar skulls are not meant to be eaten. They are for decoration. Royal icing recipe adapted from The Blenderist.

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Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha)

Something strange is happening in our house. Our 6 yr old, Dylan, has been asking what vegan is. My husband is an omnivore, so I cook 3 vegan meals, 3 non-vegan meals and we eat out one day a week. We don’t really use labels with our food, so the kids don’t think about our meals as vegan or non-vegan. They will eat almost anything, as long as it’s good.

This recipe for Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha), is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. The pumpkin

This recipe for Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha), is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. The pumpkin

This recipe for Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha), is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. The pumpkin

He has been hearing the word vegan a lot though, because of the blog, and my husband constantly asking if something I have prepared is vegan (possibly with a grimace on his face). I don’t want Dylan to think of vegan food as different or worse than other food, so I have been naming some of his favorite foods and letting him know they are vegan. He loves tofu! When he asked me what vegan was, the best explanation I could give him was that it was food that came from plants, not animals. He kind of nodded and moved on to the next distracting thing in his path.

This recipe for Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha), is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. The pumpkin

This recipe for Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha), is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. The pumpkin

This recipe for Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha), is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. The pumpkin

Now that the WHO (World Health Organization) has stated that processed meats can cause cancer, it is more important than ever to demistify plant-based food and show others, especially our children, how great you can feel from eating it and how delicious it can be.

This recipe for Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha), is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. The pumpkin

The Recipe: Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha)

This is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. A cinderella pumpkin is cut into thick wedges, and simmered slowly in piloncillo, cinnamon, clove, and orange peel. Once the pumpkin is soft and tender, it is drizzled in its own syrup. Traditionally it is served with milk, but this version is topped with decadent coconut whipped cream. Enjoy!

This recipe for Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha), is another great dish you can prepare for the Day of the Dead celebration. The pumpkin

candied pumpkin (calabaza en tacha)
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Candied Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha)

Prep Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 10 servings
Author Dora Stone

Ingredients

  • 1 small (4 -5 lbs.) Cinderella pumpkin
  • 1 lb. Piloncillo, (2 cones)
  • 1 Ceylon cinnamon stick
  • 1 Clove, whole
  • 1 strip Orange peel
  • ¾ cup Water

Preparation

  1. Place the piloncillo, water, cinnamon, clove, and orange peel in a large pot or dutch oven set to low heat. Let the piloncillo slowly dissolve, stir frequently.
  2. In the meantime, rinse the pumpkin well to remove any dirt. With a small knife cut a circle around the stem of the pumpkin. Almost like you are carving a jack-o-lantern. Remove the stem and pull out the seeds and flesh attached to it. Leave the rest if the seeds and flesh inside.
  3. Following the natural vertical grooves of the pumpkin, cut it into wedges from top to bottom. The wedges should be about 2 ½ “ wide x 3 “ long. You do not need to remove the seeds, but you can if desired. Score the skin of the pumpkin wedges with a small knife to help them absorb the syrup.
  4. Once the piloncillo has completely dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and layer the pumpkin wedges skin side down on the bottom of the pot. Once you have covered the bottom of the pot completely, add a second layer of pumpkin wedges flesh side down, so that the pumpkin is touching flesh to flesh.
  5. Cover the pot and set it to medium- low heat. Let the pumpkin simmer for 1½ hours. Don’t worry about not having enough liquid in the pot. As the pumpkin cooks it will release a large quantity of water.
  6. Uncover the pot and let simmer for ½ hour more or until the pumpkin is a dark brown color and is completely submerged in the syrup. Take off the heat and let cool.
  7. Serve hot or cold and top with coconut whipped cream. (see note)

Chef's Notes

If you cannot find Cinderella pumpkins, use a sugar pumpkin instead. Here is  a super easy recipe for coconut whipped cream.

 

 

 

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Vegan Day of the Dead Bread

Who knew death could be so colorful? Purple and orange tissue paper banners line altars decorated with marigold petals, colorful sugar skulls, and a bounty of fruit and vegetables. This is a celebration of life and triumph over death, the intermingling of the religious beliefs of the indigenous people of Mexico and the faith of the Spaniards that conquered them. The Day of the Dead is not only a holiday that honors those who have left us, but it is believed that on that special day the souls of the dead return to visit the living. Both the indigenous people and the Church of the Spaniards believed that death was not an end, but only a passageway to another life. That is why this is a joyous occasion, a homecoming festival, and at the same time a way to mock death and the power it holds over our bodies.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

Before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, the Aztecs held rituals for the dead during the summer months in a joint celebration with the first days of harvest. The dead were traditionally buried with rich offering of ceramics, personal objects, and food. The offerings where meant to assist them in their journey to the afterlife. After the arrival of the Catholic missionaries their traditions and beliefs were merged with those of the indigenous people, and the festivities were moved to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, Nov 1st and Nov 2nd.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

 

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

The festivities have evolved over the years and differ from region to region. Some of the most popular ones include altars in honor of loved ones who have passed, preparing the dead’s favorite foods, and gathering at the cemetery to decorate a loved one’s grave, share a meal and reminiscence. My favorite tradition is the elaboration of the altars. The symbolism incorporated into the altars is so rich and meaningful that it truly honors the dead, those we keep in our hearts, but somehow with the passing of time fade in our memories.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

Every altar has several key symbols which are:

water– as an offering to the soul to quench their thirst in their long journey

salt– as a symbol of purification and to preserve the body so it will not wither

fire– to represent the light of the faith and guide the spirits in their journey

incense– to elevate our prayers to God in heaven

flowers– marigolds, their color represents the radiance of sunlight and life

bread– as a symbol of the body of Christ, usually round loaves with topped with “bones” and known as pan de muerto

a picture of the person who the altar is dedicated to

religious images– to symbolize God as an intermediary between the living and the dead

the favorite foods and drinks of the departed– to delight the souls who will be visiting (the most common being Mexican hot chocolate, tequila, atole, mole, tortillas and rice

candy skulls– the indigenous held the skull as symbol of death being a part of life

tissue paper banners– purple to symbolize christian mourning and orange to symbolize Aztec mourning

fruits and vegetables– an offering from the earth

personal objects of the person being honored– to accompany them on their journey back

a dog– to protect and guide the spirits.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

Every year we make an altar in our home to a loved one lost. It is our own special way of introducing our deceased loved ones to our children. We talk about the things that they liked to eat, do, and why they are important to us. On November 2nd we say a prayer for them, and keep hoping for the day we will be reunited in the afterlife. For years now, we have also been attending the Day of the Dead Festival in Oceanside, CA. The festival takes place in the Mission San Luis Rey. There are a variety of traditional foods such as tamales, tacos, tortas, aguas frescas, and pan de muerto. There is also face painting, sugar skull decorating, and regional dances. However, the highlight of the festival is the showcase of the altars, some representing various Mexican states and built by whole communities and families.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

Out of all the wonderful Mexican traditions, the Day of the Dead might be the one that still holds firm to its pre-Hispanic roots. The loved ones lost, who we cannot see or hear, make themselves present in our homes, share our food, and partake in the rejoicing of life and the conquest of death.

Sources:

Los Dias de Los Muertos, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian and National Museum of American History, 2010

Simbolismos en el altar del Dia de los Muertos, Tanatologa Aida Maria Castro Morales, 2007 (http://www.slideshare.net/internatoni/simbolismos-en-el-altar-del-da-de-muertos)

The Recipe: Vegan Day of the Dead Bread (Pan de Muerto)

This recipe might be better than the non-vegan version, according to my husband. I have substituted the eggs with potatoes, resulting in a moist, soft, and sweet bread. It is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate or coffee.

 

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Combine Dry ingredients

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Dissolve yeast in almond milk and add 2 tbsp. of flour

Cook and mash potatoes.

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Combine wet ingredients

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Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.

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Mix on low speed and add butter.

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Mix with a dough hook for 15 min. until the dough separates from the bowl.

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and is stretchy but not sticky.

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Finished dough.

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Let dough rise 1 1/2 hours. Refrigerate over night

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Let come to room temperature, roll into balls.

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Let rise for 1 1/2 hrs.

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Bake at 350F for 40- 45 minutes. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar.

pan de muerto

 

pan de muerto
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Vegan Day of the Dead Bread

Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 day 45 minutes
Servings 4 loaves
Author Dora Stone

Ingredients

  • 1 pack (.75 oz) Active dry yeast
  • ½ cup (3.5 oz) Almond milk, room temperature, 3.5 oz
  • 3 1/3 cup (17.5 oz) Bread flour
  • ¾ cup (5.5 oz) Sugar, granulated
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Orange zest
  • ¼ cup Orange juice
  • ¾ cup (6 oz.) Potato, Yukon gold, cooked, mashed
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp. (4 ¼ oz.) Vegan butter room temperature, cut into 1 inch pieces,

Topping

  • 2 tbsp. Vegan butter, melted
  • ½ cup Sugar, granulated

Preparation

  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the almond milk and add 2 tbsp. of the flour. Whisk to incorporate and let rest in a warm place for 20 min.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, with the dough hook, combine the dry ingredients: the rest of the flour, salt, sugar, and orange zest. Mix.
  3. Add the wet ingredients: the orange juice, mashed potato, and yeast-flour mixture. Mix on low until the dough begins to incorporate.
  4. Add the ½ cup + 1 tbsp. of softened butter little by little and increase speed to medium. Mix for 15 min. until the dough has come off the sides of the bowl and is stretchy but not sticky.
  5. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and fold the side over unto each other and flip. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  6. The next day take the dough from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place (70-75F) until the dough comes to room temperature, about an hour.
  7. Take a piece of dough, weighing about 3 oz., and set aside. Divide the remaining dough into four pieces. Roll them tightly into rounds and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment. Press down on the rounds lightly.
  8. Use the reserved dough to make 4 small balls the size of a quarter and set aside. Use the remaining dough to roll out eight strips long enough to cover the rounds. Place two strips on top of each round forming an x, use your fingers to press lightly on the strips to form knobs, they should resemble bones. Repeat the process with the rest of the rounds.
  9. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 ½ hrs. in a warm place (70- 75F) or until double in size.
  10. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350F. Place the small balls in the center of the rounds with a little bit of water. Bake for 20-30 min. until the rounds have become a rich brown color. Cover with foil and bake for 10 to 15 min. more, until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 190F. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.
  11. While the bread is still warm melt 2 tbsp. of butter and brush the bread with it. Sprinkle evenly with sugar.
  12. Let bread completely cool before eating.

Chef's Notes

My favorite vegan butter is Earth Balance. This recipe is a combination of my dad’s recipe and Fanny Gerson’s method for Pan de Muerto in My Sweet Mexico.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

This vegan Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) is moist, airy, has a hint of orange zest, and is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

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Remembering Kihong Stone

When Dora first approached me about writing a piece about my mother, Kihong Stone,  I had some serious apprehensions.  Her passing in May of 2010 is still a fresh wound.   Last year Dora put up an altar of her grandfather in the Mexican tradition.  It was a little bit of an uncomfortable experience watching her set up his favorite foods, ornate sugar skulls with gold leaf, candles, marigolds, rainbows of paper skeletons and other objects connecting the dead to the living world so they can find their way back.  The last thing I wanted was an omnipresent relative in the house watching everything we said and did.  But growing up a son of a first generation immigrant, we had traditions in my house that were not considered ‘normal’.   Growing up I got to experience a culture and a world view outside of the one I was going to school and playing with friends in.  I don’t want my son to miss out on anything that was a part of who he is or where he came from.  So I embraced this bit of culture at arm’s length.  Literally, I didn’t get too close to the altar because I swear his eyes were following me.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

This year Dora asked if she could put up an altar of my mother.  I sighed and gave in because I knew what Dora was trying to do is considered very kind, but her death seemed so final the more we spoke of her in the past tense.  There was and still is this tiny part of my mind that says she might call tomorrow with a  dumb joke or that if I fly back to Annapolis she will be there waiting to give me a hug.  Hence, I don’t talk about my mother much.  So Dora started assembling the altar; putting up the sugar skulls and the delicate paper cutouts from last year that she painstakingly saved from several ant invasions and a much-too-curious three year old.  She started to ask me what my mom’s favorite foods were, what was her favorite color, what kind of personality she had, etc.  So I started to remember the good things, memories that should and must be preserved and passed down especially since my son was only an infant when she was alive.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

My mother was a hardworking, intelligent, tenacious, brutally honest, well-traveled person that only accepted the best.  She would take French fries back to fast food restaurants because they were cold.  My first car was brokered with me outside the dealership because she didn’t want the salesman feeding on my emotions raising the price.  My favorite story is the time my mother went to Venice and checked in to her hotel.  She didn’t like the view so she came to the front desk and said there was a ‘smell’.  The front desk agent told her the hotel was sold out and there was nothing he could do.  So my mother waited until he could do something,  she stared at this poor, unsuspecting man for two hours while he checked in guests and tried to go about a normal day at work while this 5’6” Korean woman eyed him down.  First mistake, don’t underestimate my mother; she will outsmart you, outwit you, outclass you, and out will you into submission.  But I’m using the present tense when it should be the past. She got a room with a balcony overlooking the canal.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

All of these memories came back when we started her altar and now I’m so glad Dora asked.  I created a list of items I would like on my altar for when I pass into the next world; green decorations, a bottle of tequila (Clase Azul Reposado), a bottle of burgundy (DRC Richebourg), kimchi (gaktugi, moowoo malaengyee), Dr. Pepper, my grandmother’s rosary, my cowboy boots, Dora’s Chiles en Nogada, my son’s Thomas the train, and my father’s pocket knife.  We can and should mold traditions from the past to our lives in the present.  It keeps where we came from connected to where we can and should go.  It’s going to be the strangest looking Mexican Day of the Dead altar ever but that’s the benefit of combining traditions and cultures.  After all, it’s my altar and I’m watching you.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

 

 

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Day of the Dead Festival Oceanside

There’s a Day of the Dead festival in Oceanside every year, and no, it’s not a convention of the Walking Dead or related to Halloween at all, as you might think. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of life and a mocking of death. Aztec beliefs fused with that of their conquerors have made this day one full of symbolism, both pagan and Catholic at the same time. It is shouting in death’s face: “You might have taken our loves ones, but they are not forgotten.” And so we celebrate, dance, make altars for the departed, eat, and rejoice in the triumph over death brought by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There's a Day of the Dead festival in Oceanside every year, and no, it's not a convention of the Walking Dead or related to Halloween at all, as you might think. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of life and a mocking of death. Aztec beliefs fused with that of their conquerors have made this day one full of symbolism, both pagan and Catholic at the same time. It is shouting in death's face: "You might have taken our loves ones, but they are not forgotten." And so we celebrate, dance, make altars for the departed, eat, and rejoice in the triumph over death brought by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

There's a Day of the Dead festival in Oceanside every year, and no, it's not a convention of the Walking Dead or related to Halloween at all, as you might think. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of life and a mocking of death. Aztec beliefs fused with that of their conquerors have made this day one full of symbolism, both pagan and Catholic at the same time. It is shouting in death's face: "You might have taken our loves ones, but they are not forgotten." And so we celebrate, dance, make altars for the departed, eat, and rejoice in the triumph over death brought by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you are interested in learning more about the symbolism and origin of the Day of the Dead, I wrote about this in greater detail last year, you can find the article here.

 

The Mission San Luis Rey, where the festival took place, set a beautiful stage for this celebration. There was food of course, tamales, tacos, tortas, aguas frescas, pan de muerto, and many more Mexican classics. There was also face painting, in the Day of the Dead fashion, for adults and kids alike. The munchkin got to decorate his own sugar skull, while donating the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. My favorite part of the festivities was the altars, and there were so many. Some representing various Mexican states and built by whole communities, and some were built by families honoring their loved ones.

David Lozeau at The Day of the Dead Festival Oceanside

There was also a large section of artisanal paintings, sculptures, hand made jewelry,  Mexican linen dresses, and religious images. I was able to talk to an artist that I have been wanting to meet, his name is David Lozeau. His work is full of bright colors, bold lines, and death; it is a modern rendition of Jose Guadalupe Posada’s skeleton images of the early 1900’s. David is American, from the East coast, he was raised Catholic and grew up with the idea that death equaled sadness and pain. It wasn’t until he moved to CA that he discovered that death could be joyful and so it became his inspiration. Some of his depictions of skeletal figures mirror traditional Mexican art, but others are infused with pop culture and his unique view of death. He sees the world with a Day of the Dead filter and his art reflects it. He does not limit himself to paintings, thus his work can be seen on motorcycles, tattoos, murals, and instruments. David attends the Day of the Dead festival in Oceanside every year, and can also be seen at various SoCal events and festivals. Thank for taking the time to talk to me David! Here is some of his work:

After a long day, we left the festival tired and happy. This was a very joyful event filled with music, color, and flowers, but the hundreds of pictures of those gone reminded us that just like death, this celebration is bittersweet.