Talk to your children about tradition, family stories and purgatory while making these delicious All Souls’ Day of the Dead Brownies.
by Ryan Langr
When I was younger, before my Catholicism was really important to me, I loved Halloween for the gruesome, arcane and macabre picture of “reality” it offered. As I grew in age, and my faith grew in knowledge and devotion, I began to think that maybe Halloween was actually opposed to our faith. Finally, I settled on the realization that, while many aspects of the holiday are incompatible with a true expression of our faith, Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, and Dia de los Muertos are actually beautiful expressions of our religion and tradition. Halloween is Oct. 31, All Saints’ Day is Nov. 1 and All Souls’ Day is Nov. 2. A celebration of life and death, El Dia de Los Muertos covers two days, from Nov. 1-2.
I’ve always enjoyed being multicultural in these posts, and I have a special love for Hispanic culture. El Dia de los Muertos, (translated to English as the Day of the Dead), originated in Mexico but is now celebrated around the world. The ancient Mexicans did not believe in mourning the dead, as dying was just a part of life. As Catholics, we believe that there is life after death; Jesus’ gave us that gift in his suffering on the cross and resurrection. We pray for those who have died before us, so that they may live in heaven forever.
One of the most colorful and vibrant celebrations of the entire year for many, we’ll be paying homage to the entire lot of life and death celebrations this fall with this mashup All Souls’ Day of the Dead Brownies. You can use your own brownie recipe if you want, but I’ll be giving you my very popular recipe. Easy, quick and customizable (though not traditionally part of the celebration), brownies are an excellent option for your festivities.
My dad grew up telling me stories of his childhood. The adventures and crazy antics his siblings and he had every day gave me an appreciation of what he must have been like as a child. When I got older, I delved deeply into my genealogy, tracing back my ancestry, at one point, to the late 8th century. I found that I identified with these people, even centuries removed, in a way that sometimes made me both proud and ashamed to be descended from them. As humans, we are made to connect with our past, and as Catholics we value tradition and those who gave it to us.
This is the beauty of the All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day. While Halloween may be a scoffing at evil and an acceptance of our mortality, from the perspective of the Day of the Dead, it is primarily an embracing of our family. If you haven’t yet seen the Disney movie “Coco,” (by the way, watch it as a family), it is brilliantly beautiful and emotionally moving. Giving our kids a love of family history, in particular, can insulate them and give them a love of tradition in general. This can be a powerful bastion for their love of the Catholic faith.
As I made brownies with my daughter, I made sure to relive family memories, both the good and the not so good. My daughter is curious, and she loves to hear stories about grownups when they were kids. I told her not only of the fun we had, but of the mistakes I made and the lessons I’ve learned. When she’s older, I’ll tell her of her grandparents and ancestors before them. There’s a treasure trove of lessons hidden among history.
If you don’t do this already, find some time this week to talk about your family. Maybe it will be fun, maybe it will be healing, but it will probably be worth it. Then on All Saints’ Day, talk about the saints which are also our family, and the examples they’ve set.
This is also a great time to talk about purgatory and why we pray for people there: We want them to be happy in heaven!
All this, while munching on these delicious brownies!
Eternal rest grant unto them,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.