Monday, November 2, 2009

Los Dios De Los Muertos

Day of the Dead is something that our family has celebrated the last couple of years. It has been a wonderful way to teach our children the importance of remembering members of our family who have passed away. We take time to tell stories that keep memories alive, we make favorite foods of those who have died and we set up an alter with photos, flowers, and candles to remind us to say prayers of thanks for all that our ancestors did to help us have the lives we have today.

It has been an excellent tool to help my five year old daughter be able to talk about death and start to understand it is part of the natural life cycle of every living thing. It also has been a great way to teach my children that through death we celebrate life.

This year I picked up this awesome fabric for our altar (Pink Chalk Fabrics) as well as some fun tissue flowers and skull trinkets from Mexican town. For those of you who are not familiar with this holiday, it is one that primarily celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans in the United States. It is celebrated on Nov. 1st & 2nd (in connection with All Saints Day and All Souls Day) and the celebration includes trips to the cemeteries to pay respects, special meals & treats and altars that are adorned with flowers, pictures, sugar skulls & food to honor the deceased. One thing that I have found very interesting is that scholars have traced the origins of this holiday back thousands of years to an Aztec festival in honor of a goddess, Mictecacihuatl, whose role is to keep watch over the bones of the dead. Her cult is sometimes held to persist in the common Mexican worship of Santa Muerte; this I find VERY fascinating!

I encourage you to make this holiday part of your family festivities at this time of year, especially if you have little ones who are curious about death and you are having a hard time approaching the issue with them.

Here is the recipe that we use to make the traditional Day of the Dead Bread, Pan Muerto:

Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)
Ingredients 1/4 cup milk 1/4 cup (half a stick) margarine or butter, cut into 8 pieces 1/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 package active dry yeast 1/4 cup very warm water 2 eggs 3 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted 1/2 teaspoon anise seed 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons sugar

Instructions: Bring milk to boil and remove from heat. Stir in margarine or butter, 1/4 cup sugar and salt.
In large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until dissolved and let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk mixture.
Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast mixture, but save the white for later. Now add flour to the yeast and egg. Blend well until dough ball is formed.

Flour a pastry board or work surface very well and place the dough in center. Knead until smooth. Return to large bowl and cover with dish towel. Let rise in warm place for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Knead dough again on floured surface. Now divide the dough into fourths and set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining 3 pieces into "ropes."

On greased baking sheet , pinch 3 rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching ends together on opposite side. Divide the remaining dough in half and form 2 "bones." Cross and lay them atop braided loaf.
Cover bread with dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix anise seed, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar together. In another bowl, beat egg white lightly.
When 30 minutes are up, brush top of bread with egg white and sprinkle with sugar mixture, except on cross bones. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

1 comment:

Rebecca Marie said...

you are my "mama" hero....i love that you have introduced such a great tradition into your household while simultaneously incorporating culture, history, family, love....u rock!