Day of the Dead – A Traditional Way to Celebrate your Ancestors.

Monday, November 1, 2021 from 4:00-6:00 pm create a place setting, 6:30-9:00 pm specialty fire. Everyone is welcome even if you don’t prepare a place setting.

Outdoor event at Sacred Fire Council House. Seating limited to 35 people. Chairs provided. We will be following COVID-19 guidelines – including masks (if < 6 ft apart) and physical distancing. Please join us for this traditional celebration in which we remember our loved ones who have passed. A small act of respect can open a doorway to healing in unexpected ways. Registration required.

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CONTEXT FOR OUR CELEBRATION

Our beautiful Asheville landscape signals to us a change in seasons. Brilliant yellow, orange and red colored leaves fall from the trees. Cool winds blow in, early morning frosts nip our toes. Fall arrives in fits and spurts reminding us to take time to reflect on what we value, who we grieve when gone, what foundation we can stand on to live a life of purpose and meaning for ourselves, our families and our community. The nature of this season prepares us for the moment when the doorway to our ancestors is opened and we can pay our respects to our beloveds who have gone before us. Honoring our ancestors is a natural yet often forgotten part of human life.

The Day of the Dead, a Nahua celebration of our ancestors, occurs on November 1st. Traditionally, family members are honored and a connection is maintained with those who have walked before us. We offer our respect; our ancestors offer their wisdom. Honoring the ancestors and receiving their wisdom has proven beneficial to human being throughout time.

This annual remembrance of family builds and maintains our relationship to our ancestors. Cultures around the world hold this time honored tradition in their own way. Essentially it is recognized around the world that the circle of life includes before-birth, birth, life, death and afterlife. Westerners easily connect with celebrations marking pregnancy, birth, life stages and death. Consideration and honoring of the ancestors often goes missing.

This important aspect of life honors the learning and growing that your parents and grandparents underwent, along with their parents and grandparents going all the way back to the first peoples. Access to this wisdom is needed now more than ever. Even those who lived “badly” have great learning to impart to us. These simple gestures of remembering your parents or grandparents opens the doorway to connect you to the earned wisdom of your people.

Along with celebrating and honoring those who have gone before us, feelings of grief, loss, anger and fear may arise with joy and appreciation. All the emotions feed the fire of connection and are welcome.

THE INVITATION

Honoring the ancestors and receiving their wisdom has proven beneficial for human beings throughout time and generations. We are hosting a celebration for our ancestors at the Sacred Fire Council House. At this celebration you are invited to make a place setting on our communal altar for your deceased relatives as you would for an honored dinner guest. SEE PROTOCOL below for details. After making your place setting we will gather for a physically distant specialty fire outside the council house. We will explore, feel and share what we’re learning from our ancestors and the wisdom they have earned. All are welcome to register for this specialty fire whether or not you choose to create a place setting on the altar.

We look forward to an afternoon of honoring those who have walked before us.

SCHEDULE

4:00-6:00 pm create a place setting, 6:30-9:00 pm specialty fire.

If you plan to make a place setting: arrive between 4:00-6:00 pm to make your place setting. Please wear your mask and physically distance from others. Douglas or or his assistants will be available to guide you. Our specialty fire will begin at 6:30 pm. We will leave the space by sundown and your ancestors will continue to enjoy the feast. The altar will formally close on Wednesday, November 3 at 9:30 am.

If you plan to only come to the specialty fire: arrive by 6:00 pm and find a chair on the lawn outside the council house. Our specialty fire will begin at 6:30 pm. We will close by 9:00 pm.

PROTOCOL TO CREATE A PLACE SETTING

If you wish to honor a family member or close friend (close like a family member) who has died, read the protocol below in the following bullet points. All honorees must be a family member who died as an adult prior to November 1, 2020. You can make more than one place setting.

Bring any or all of the following

  • Photo of your beloved to place on the altar – framed or unframed.
  • A serving of their favorite food(s) and/or drink to attract their interest.
  • Bring miniature representations of their passion or hobby. For example, bring a matchbox car of their favorite car or miniature deck of cards if they loved poker.
  • Cut flowers in a vase.
  • Votive candle in a container.

Do not bring personal objects of the deceased. Treasured family heirlooms may make sense to our minds as objects to put on an altar but they have no place in this ceremony.

Retrieving your items: Come back on Wednesday, November 3rd at 9:30 am to collect your items and help close the altar. Contact Douglas if you need to come later that day – (828) 230-7760

The items you place will remain on the altar until it is formally closed on Wednesday, November 3rd at 9:30 am. At that time you will gather your photos, miniature objects, and dishes. We advise you box and store these items which can be re-used yearly, specifically for the Day of the Dead. It is fine to use compostable dishes. All food and drink will be disposed of properly. Once the altar is closed, nothing will be held overnight so be sure to make arrangements to collect your altar items should you be unable to be present Tuesday morning.

MORE ABOUT CREATING A PLACE SETTING

One way to think of the Day of the Dead celebration is to imagine you are throwing a dinner party for one or more honored guests. In this tradition, you would set cut flowers on the table along with candles. You would prepare food and drink you knew would be enjoyed and would bring delight. Perhaps you would even offer a gift that would let them know you are aware of their interests and hobbies.

Now imagine the altar is the dinner table and the honored guests are your ancestors. Your photos serve as name cards to let the guest know where their place is located. A sample of their favorite food and drink is there for them to enjoy. The miniature representations of a hobby or passion further demonstrate the connection you share and entice the loved one to “stay for the party’.

In the U.S. we tend to think bigger is better and more is more. Traditional peoples were very practical and simply aimed for what worked. In Mexico, the altars often have miniature dishes of traditional foods. The markets sell miniature foods and miniature figures (doing everyday activities) that are made of spun sugar. Here, we ask people to bring a serving of their loved ones’ favorite food and drink rather than a specified traditional food or something made of spun sugar.

Try your best to follow the protocols as written. You do not have to bring every item on the list. The tradition has been working for many, many years and although our minds want to know “why” something is the way it is, truly, the short answer is because that is what works.

Please do not hesitate to call Douglas (828-230-7760) if you have questions about something you want to bring.

CEREMONIAL LEADER

This ceremony and celebration is led by Douglas Haynes, Quiatlzques initiated in the Nahua weather working tradition originating from the central Mexican Highlands. In the Nahua tradition people celebrate their ancestors each November 1st, the Day of the Dead.

Donations to defray costs and support the Council House are gratefully accepted via paypal friends and family or donation gourd onsite.