WEST HILLS 7230 MEDICAL CENTER DRIVE, SUITE 401 WEST HILLS, CA 91307 WEST LOS ANGELES 10474 SANTA MONICA BLVD, SUITE 435 LOS ANGELES, CA 90025
WWW.M3PT.COM / LA · 310.275.4137 / WEST HILLS · 747.888.3562 / OCTOBER 2018
M3 AND ME
DIYAS AND OFRENDAS A CROSS-CULTURAL CELEBRATION OF LIFE AND MEMORIES
In our August edition, I mentioned how important it is to Munesha and me to give our children the opportunity to cherish their Mexican and Indian heritage. This combined ancestry is vibrantly displayed near the end of each October, when the Hindu new year celebration, Diwali, typically falls within a week of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). On the surface, these traditions could not be more different, but bringing them both into our household has been nothing short of a profound experience. For those unfamiliar with Diwali, as I was before I met Munesha, imagine if Christmas and New Year’s were the same holiday. Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is when Hindus celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, decorating their homes and offices with bright lanterns, called diyas, arranged in intricate flower patterns. It is a joyous, life-affirming celebration of new beginnings. On the morning of, our family dresses in richly-colored Indian clothes and has a little “puja” (a ceremony), where we light candles, sing songs, and pass around a plate of milk displaying various Hindu deities. The kids also get gifts as part of this celebration of light, youth, and renewal.
A few years ago, a beloved uncle of mine passed away, and the loss deeply affected our family. My kids had fond memories of him and the songs he would play on his guitar for them. This was their
first experience of losing a loved one. That’s when Milan, our youngest, remembered being taught about Día de los Muertos in school. When Halloween
passed, she was adamant that we observe the holiday to honor my uncle’s memory. So we built a little “ofrena” (an alter) with my uncle’s picture on it, and a little guitar to pay homage to the music he loved to play. We reconstruct the alter every year, lighting candles and
telling fond stories of our past loved ones. Día de los Muertos doesn’t have to be especially mournful. It’s a celebration of
the lives of those who came before us. I can’t help but think it fitting that Milan brought this tradition to our family. After all, her Hindi middle name is Shanti — “peace.” Taken together, Día de los Muertos and Diwali harmonize in the most beautiful way. Every autumn, our family honors the past and welcomes the bright light of the future. Appropriately enough, this mirrors the values we’ve raised our children to have: Respect your elders and value the traditions that helped shape your culture, yes — but also celebrate new ideas and new paths. Light your own diya and stride into the future.
Día de los Muertos, on the other hand, is about looking back and reflecting on those who have passed on from this world. While the holiday is not ubiquitous across Mexico, the beautiful Pixar movie “Coco” has brought Day of the Dead to international attention. But before Día de los Muertos was brought to the big screen, my youngest daughter brought it into our home.
From our family to yours, happy holidays.
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