31 days to Celebrate Life Over 50s Lifestyle

Thursday Thoughts: Dia de los Muertos – Guest post – Leslie Roberts Clingan

August 10, 2017


Dia de los Muertas

As I mentioned in my earlier post August is all about Celebrating Your Life Now as part of celebrating not only my 60th but also Life itself, I will be introducing some guests to write about their thoughts on Celebrating Life.

My first guest is Leslie Roberts Clingan from Once Upon A Time & Happily Ever After, Life After Retirement. I have only known Leslie a few short months and in fact, we are still trying to look at our family tree to see if we are related (on the Roberts side).  However, I think we must be related because Leslie is a vibrant, happy women enjoying her retirement and her family including her gorgeous grandchildren – sounds  a little like me I think!

Today, Leslie shares with us a celebration Dia de Los Muertos which I have previously seen a documentary about. I will let her tell you about it plus the personal reason why she tries to live life to the full.  Enjoy reading Leslie’s post and I have included a little about her and her website and social media links so you can get to know her.

Leslie writes:

I am honored to be one of Sue’s guest bloggers for Sizzling Sue’s Sixtieth Selebrations during her birthday month of August. When she invited me to participate by writing a post to support her “Celebrating Life Now” theme, I immediately thought of a holiday observed in the American southwest Texas city of El Paso where I live.

Actually, Dia de los Muertos is most commonly associated with Mexico but is celebrated throughout Latin America and now parts of the United States. It has become one of my favorite holidays; one I first discovered after moving to El Paso, where the community is predominantly of Hispanic/Mexican descent.

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated over 3 days, from October 31-November 2. There are no mascots or magical characters associated with this holiday. No gift-giving. No cavity-causing candy. It is really just a time to spend with family remembering and honoring the lives of those who have passed. Not all together different from the American holiday Memorial Day.
But at the heart of this tradition are altars built to welcome the deceased back to earth from the other side, from heaven.

It is believed that on Dia de los Muertos, spirits return to visit their living family and friends, and the altars are created to provide everything the spirits will need to make their brief return pleasant.

To begin, an altar is often referred to as an ofrenda because much of what is collected for the altar is actually being offered to the spirits for their comfort. It is usually arranged on a table top, often one reserved for this purpose.

Dia de los Muertos

Ofrendas usually have several tiers. While these altars are as unique as the individual they are created to celebrate, they do contain certain basic, often symbolic elements.

  • Candles or velas in Spanish, are lit to help direct the spirits back to earth and to their altars.
  • Marigolds, cempasuchitl, are the flower of choice when creating an altar. Their bright color and pungent smell also serve to guide the spirits back.
  • Incense, incienso, is usually present on an altar. In particular, copal incense which is often thought to be a holy or sacred or ceremonial incense. I didn’t put it on my altar but have in the past.
  • Salt, sal, in a shaker or just sprinkled on the altar represents the continuation of life.
    Photos of the deceased.
  • Sugar skulls or calveras de azucar, serve several purposes. They are beautiful and add color, represent life, can be used as offerings to the deceased or given as gifts to those who visit the altar. I have seen sugar skulls designed using the favorite colors of the person being celebrated and sometimes labeled with the deceased’s name.
  • Food, comida, is placed on the altar. Often times fresh fruit, tamales and mole (a saucy gravy made from cocoa, pronounced moh-lay) are left on the ofrenda.
  • Water or agua is provided to quench the thirsts of tired, traveling spirits.
  • Toiletries, like soap and water, habón y agua, made available so the spirits can freshen up after their trip to earth.
  • Bread of the dead or pan de muertos. Delicious! A slightly sweet bread with just a hint of anise, baked in the shape of a skull or bones and dusted with sugar. The bread symbolizes soil of the earth and the bones of the deceased.
  • Perforated paper or papel picado is draped above or around the altar. It is used for additional color and represents the wind and the fragility of life. The traditional papel is cut from tissue paper.

In 2001, my 3 year-old nephew lost his fight with Wilm’s Tumor. Every year since, I have built an ofrenda in Andrew’s memory. He loved Batman, Chick-fil-a, Buzz Lightyear and frogs, so in the photo of his altar above, you find symbols of his favorite things in life.

Andrew loved life and lived everyday with the rambunctious energy of a healthy 3 year-old. After his death, my family become more spiritual. And we all made an effort to begin living life like Andrew…with joy and a sense of celebration for every day.

Dia de los Muertos

The end of July, my daughters and granddaughters came to visit me. We celebrated the birthdays of both my daughters and my oldest granddaughter. Instead of spending a fortune for gifts no one really needed, we decided to make some special memories together. And have agreed going forward that we want to use every opportunity that we can be together to celebrate life and our love for one another.

When families gather at the cemetery on November 2, for the culmination of the Dia de los Muertos activities, they pack picnics, play music and games, talk and laugh and share happy memories of their loved one. I think we can all take something away from that mindset.

Life should be a celebration. And a life well lived should be celebrated, too.

Thank YOU for joining me in this celebration of life. For more information on Dia de los Muertos, check out these websites: Decoding the Food and Drink on a Day of the Dead Altar, Dia de los Muertos and Day of the Dead Art. There are a number of great children’s books about this celebration including the two featured on my altar Day of the Dead by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith and Pablo Remembers by George Ancona.

Happy birthday, Sue. Thank you for inviting me to participate in Sizzling Sue’s Sixtieth Selebrations. Your enthusiasm for the life you have created is contagious and inspirational. And because of you, I am already rounding up, saying I’m 60 when I have a half-year to go. But who’s counting, right?

Meet Leslie

In what felt like the blink of an eye, I have gone from full-time wife to my sweet husband, hands-on mom to my two beautiful daughters and elementary school librarian to a retired, empty nester with lots of time on my hands. Join me on my journey to rediscover who I am. Always glad to make new friends with whom to share this new adventure.

Follow Leslie






I do hope you enjoyed Leslie’s post and thoughts on Celebrating Life Now!

Let’s Keep Sizzling!

Women Living Well After 50

Living Life Your Way

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  • Reply Terri Webster Schrandt August 10, 2017 at 08:45

    So great to see Leslie as your guest blogger, Sue! She is very inspirational and seems as busy as you are 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 11, 2017 at 10:33

      Thanks Terri, I need to have you join in the guest blogging as well. xx

    • Reply Leslie Clingan August 13, 2017 at 14:17

      Thank you, Terri, for these sweet words. So enjoying getting to know you and my cuz Sue!!

      • Reply Sue Loncaric August 14, 2017 at 16:24

        I’m definitely working on that family tree Leslie!

  • Reply Carol Cassara (@ccassara) August 10, 2017 at 08:55

    I love your celebration of your nephew. A beautiful way to remember him. Blessings to you all.

    • Reply Leslie Clingan August 13, 2017 at 14:19

      Thank you, Carol. I think this holiday is such a rich celebration of life.

  • Reply Jennifer August 10, 2017 at 22:29

    What a beautiful holiday and a lovely way to honor your nephew. I love making memories instead of buying presents. When my sister was 69 years old she thought it sounded ho-hum, so she started telling people that she was almost 70. The change in reactions from people was almost magical.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 11, 2017 at 10:28

      I loved learning about this holiday Jennifer and such a beautiful way to remember family. Making memories instead of gifts is something we treasure as we get older isn’t it. Enjoy your weekend!

    • Reply Leslie Clingan August 13, 2017 at 14:21

      Love to hear about our sister rounding-up her age, too! As we get older, I think we treasure memories and special moments more than ‘things’. Tonight I rocked my granddaughter to sleep. Can’t think of a single thing someone could buy me that would mean as much.

      • Reply Jennifer August 13, 2017 at 14:25

        There is nothing that money can buy that would top that feeling!

  • Reply Jan Wild August 11, 2017 at 16:06

    What a lovely tradition and I really like how a death in the family has inspired you all to live the best life possible 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 11, 2017 at 16:19

      I think it is lovely as well Jan – a beautiful way to honour those we love.

    • Reply Leslie Clingan August 13, 2017 at 14:23

      Thank you, Jan! I truly believe our sweet boy brought our family closer together and led all of us to become more spiritual.

  • Reply Silly Mummy August 13, 2017 at 10:09

    Dia de los Muertos is so interesting – I love all the face painting and sugar skulls.

    • Reply Leslie Clingan August 13, 2017 at 14:28

      There is so much more to dia de los muertos than I shared in this post. There is a day during the 3 day celebration devoted to welcoming baby angels back to earth, dia de los angelitos. And such rich symbolism in the items used on the altar and the images associated with dia de los muertos.

      I remember first hearing about this holiday and thinking the culminating picnic with music and celebration was disrespectful. But after thinking about it, I realized most everyone I know who has passed, would prefer being celebrated than mourned.

  • Reply Brennyn August 13, 2017 at 14:54

    I just love the idea of an altar. It’s such a creative way to take time to remember those we’ve lost. I love all the ideas that can be used on the altar too.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 14, 2017 at 16:23

      It is a special celebration isn’t it Brennyn? Thanks for stopping by to comment xx

    • Reply Leslie Clingan August 14, 2017 at 23:59

      Thank you, baby girl, for stopping by. I love you! Hope you will do your own altar this year.

  • Reply Valerie Price August 14, 2017 at 11:07

    Leslie, it is because of you and the remainder of my supportive family and friends, that I have been able to keep a positive attitude after the death of Andrew. I love that you honor Andrew with this alter and that it is not only accepted but appreciated in the culture in which you live. I would like to do an alter for Andrew at school but am not sure how it would be accepted. I love you and Andrew loved his Aunt Leslie. Clock!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 14, 2017 at 16:18

      I’m so sorry for your loss Valerie but was honoured that Leslie shared Andrew’s story with us. A gorgeous little boy who is now an angel xx

    • Reply Leslie Clingan August 15, 2017 at 00:00

      Thank you for coming by, Valerie. You are my hero. I love you so. And I love that baby boy. Know he is watching over us. XO Clock

  • Reply Carol ("Mimi") August 18, 2017 at 03:21

    So nice to have Leslie writing a guest post for you! The information about Dia de los Muertos is very interesting. I had heard of it but did not know much about it. Thank you for linking up at The Blogger’s Pit Stop Link Party. I’m sharing your link on social media.
    Carol (“Mimi”) from Home with Mimi

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 18, 2017 at 07:28

      Hi Carol, yes I found the article very interesting. I’ve heard of of the tradition but didn’t know the details. Thank you for sharing and co-hosting Blogger’s Pit Stop Link Party. Have a lovely day!

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