A cultural celebration sans religion
The traditional Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos celebration is taking on a decidedly nonreligious atmosphere this year. The 2021 Secular Day of the Dear/Día de los Muertos Secular event is Tuesday, November 2nd. Secularists all over the world will gather virtually via Zoom at 3:45 PM (PDT)/6:45 PM (EDT).
“Contrary to the name, the Secular Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Secular event is actually a celebration of life,” said Victoria de la Torre, a co-founder of the secular concept.
“The 2021 Secular Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Secular event will honor many Hispanic traditions and rituals in a way that celebrates our one and only life,” de la Torre added.
Margaret Downey, another Secular Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Secular co-founder and president of the Freethought Society, said, “More and more people are abandoning their religious upbringing but still want to celebrate the beauty of their Hispanic culture, and this is why the Secular Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Secular was created. Many nontheist Hispanics want to continue traditions and cultural rituals, but in a secular way.”
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, honors all dead loved ones. Traditions connected with the holiday include creating private altars called ofrendas to honor the deceased using sugar skulls and marigolds, as well as displaying the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. Some families and friends will make a point on this day to visit graves with these items as gifts. Some also leave possessions of the deceased at the gravesite.
Secularists, however, are encouraged to join other like-minded individuals via Zoom this year to enjoy Hispanic food and beverages in the comfort of their own home. The sharing of photos and life legacies of dead loved ones is encouraged. Secularists are not so different from the religious community when it comes to grief and the need to honor the life of someone who has died. The acknowledgment of a one and only life — without religious connections — is needed and appreciated for those who grieve. The online event will be religion-free and will feature music, presentations, an honoring ceremony, and socializing opportunities, as well as the awarding of gifts.
“I’m looking forward to telling my journey story from heartsick and holy to happy heathen,” said actor Jon Huertas. During the event, Huertas will be interviewed about his journey away from religion to freedom of thought by comedian, monologist, author, and actor Julia Sweeney.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said this about their co-sponsorship, “Many cultures have celebrated harvest times, the wistful change of seasons as leaves turn color and autumn segues into winter. This is a natural time not only to feast, but to reflect on death and seasonal cycles. How fitting it is to reclaim the Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos for secular reflection. Secularists understand that the only afterlife that should concern any of us is leaving our descendants and planet a secure and pleasant future.”
David Tamayo, founder of Hispanic American Freethinkers, said in regards to being a co-sponsor of the Secular Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Secular, “I want people to know that this day is a celebration of life, which is the opposite of the sadness of death.”
Robyn Blumner, CEO of the Center For Inquiry, stated, “I look forward to remembering and celebrating Secular Saint Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine and director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, who died suddenly this year. Vaya Sin Dios, Tom.”
Debbie Allen, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, added, “The Secular Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Secular is an opportunity for me to remember and honor those I love and miss. Remembering allows me to enjoy fond memories and reconnect with near-forgotten special times. While it can hurt to reopen seeds of grief, doing so results in sharing my sorrows with new friends who understand. My own sadness is lifted by listening to others and providing support. I am comforted by being with those who accept, as I do, that I will never see my loved ones again.”
The honoring ceremony portion of the event will welcome anyone who wants to honor the life of a deceased loved one. Participants are encouraged to share a photograph or portrait of a deceased loved one during the honoring ceremony of the Secular Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Secular Zoom event. They will be invited to talk about favorite memories and the legacy of the person who died — in essence, bringing that person back to life with a spoken remembrance.
On Tuesday, November 2, 2021 join us to celebrate life, legacies, and the joy of being human.
Participants must pre-register HERE.
The 2021 Secular Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Secular Celebration is co-sponsored by:
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.