*Afterthought #103—All Souls’ Day

About fifteen years ago, my husband and I went to Mexico several times to study Spanish and Mexican culture. Over a couple of years, we learned about and experienced Christmas, Holy Week, and Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead/All Souls’ Day). As a Quaker who doesn’t practice holy days, I was fascinated to learn some of the theology and tradition surrounding these holidays. I was especially drawn to Day of the Dead.

Many traditions and practices surround the last day of October and first two days of November to honor ancestors, friends, and family who have died.  Creating an ofrenda, or altar, is a practice we’ve adopted to remember and pay tribute to those who’ve gone before us. 

Here’s what ours looks like this year (including a portrait of our dear dog Buddy, who died in the spring). What do you do to recognize this time of the year that many believe the veil between the living and dead becomes quite thin?

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets.


  1. Thank you for this, dear Iris. I am not a practicing ‘ritualist’, I guess I believe rituals aren’t important to me. However, I am moved by your description and appreciate seeing a picture of the way ritual enhances your life. Big love to you and all the rest of the Graville’s. Hope you are all happy and healthy. XOXO, m.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. This year for the first time I was able to have an outdoor fire for this special night. It’s the turn of the year for me: it’s winter now, and the beginning of winter is also when I mark both end and beginning of the seasonal year. I like to spend my fire time (which has been candle-time, before) remembering those who have died, acknowledging the griefs and difficulties of the year, praying for a fresh start and the grace to make something out of it.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Tara. I’m so glad you could have an outdoor fire as part of your annual ritual. I’d like to try having conversation of remembrance of these beloveds around a campfire, too; might add that next year. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your journey; I feel you’re a kindred spirit.

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