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Día de los Muertos - Making a Shrine

1st November, 2011
Jenny Butler
Tuesday 1st November 2011

Today Madeleine shares her experiences with educating her young daughters on death and the celebration of life. As far as tricky and challenging topics and conversations go, Maddi details a fantastic approach that would comfort young and old alike. -Jenny x

Have you ever had to explain to a child about death? Whatever your faith, it’s down right tricky and confronting. You can’t be too doctrinaire or too flaky on the subject.

A little titbit for you, did you know that Marigolds are known symbolically as the “flower of the dead”. It is believed that the scent of the marigolds attract the souls of the deceased and lures them back to earth during the Day of the Dead festivities.

Recently an ill-fated bird flew into one of our windows at home, it dropped to the ground like a ton of bricks witnessed by both my daughters. How do you explain that to two young children under the age of 5?!  The bird is ‘sleeping’ just doesn’t cut it in our household. We orchestrated a simple backyard burial complete with sprinkled flower petals and the sporadic weed or two. My girls stood glumly with dirt encrusted hands.  Taking cue from the altar experts we went the next step and collaborated together to make a monumental shrine for the entire feathered friends fraternity. They sourced every conceivable bird related object in the house including some old feathers that they tore off a kinder paste-up. The girls completed the altar with petite ofrendas using sticks for perching, guinea pig seed and flower petals (for a soft landing!).

By this stage they had forgotten about the birds suicidal death mission and were now completely focused on the celebrationary side of things. My husband walked in as we were lighting little votive candles, he was convinced that we were practicing voodoo magic. We later added a super sweet marigold garland that ended up being worn as an accessory (and ultimately shredded) by a canine friend.

For the parent who finds these scenarios a little awkward and would prefer to dodge the topic of death like an oncoming bullet I have the perfect book for you! Author Ken Tanaka has made the inevitable reality of death a little easier to comprehend for both children and adult alike. Expect to discover a simple yet straight to the point explanation in Everybody Dies a Children’s Book for Grownups. If you want to taste test Tanaka’s fabulous dark humour complete with super crudely drawn illustrations then head over to his site for a looksy, he even reads for you! You can also purchase a copy of Everybody Dies from Third Drawer Down because they know where it’s at. Happy reading.

-Madeleine xo

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