The Day of the Dead: 5 books to remind you why family matters

Día de los Muertos is the perfect holiday to honor your ancestors and remind yourself why family bonds are so important

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Family is all that we’ve got. We can always count on a family being constantly available through the thick and thin and the turbulent waters of life. Hispanics worldwide recognize this fact and set out a day to celebrate family members who have passed. This UNESCO-recognized day is known as the Day of the Dead

Some folks believe this is some alternate-Halloween party where they get to play dress up, drink to their heart’s content and flounce around in skeleton-inspired costumes. (There is actually a massive Day of the Dead parade held in Mexico each year. Since 2017, the turnout has been massive. A lot of people sure love the dead, it seems.) Hold up. Of course, those are all nice and fine, but the Day of the Dead is much more than a glorified parade. Fundamentally, it teaches us that death is only a transition; family remains family.

In the true spirit of the event, check out these 5 powerful books that revolve around the warmth and steadfastness of a family.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Have you ever wondered why the dead cannot just saunter back from Forever land? Of course, that would give many folks a heart attack, but still, have you wondered why that is not possible? Well, according to Latin tradition, a mythical barrier separates the dead and the living. This barrier is so thick that a small window only pops open on the 1st to the 2nd of November when the Day of the Dead is celebrated. Every human should have these sorts of boundaries in their lives.

In this powerful book, Drs. Cloud and Townsend explore the ideas of personal space and limits. They draw from their wealth of experiences to show you how to erect and maintain boundaries. As they teach, saying no is just as powerful as saying yes and can be an act of love for yourself first and towards your family. You will learn from this book that in the same way the dead respect these borderlines when you take to enforcing yours, your loved ones and friends will come to appreciate it too.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

In Coco (a must-see flick that explores The Day of the dead tradition), Miguel keeps trying to explain his love for music to his parents. However, his parents did not want to hear of it. That is reminiscent of how a lot of parents deal with their kids today. If you have a young child, you would be amazed at how much of what they say is lost in translation. If you are in doubt, just ask them. You will be shocked at how perhaps tone-deaf you are.

In this book, bestselling authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish teach you how to communicate with your little humans. They explain behavioral patterns and show you how to be on the same page with your kids (A mean feat, and for that, this book gets a thumbs up.) It eventually took a long-dead relative to get Miguel’s family to listen to him. Hopefully, a relative wouldn’t have to come back from the dead to convince you to listen to your kids.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family”

Anthony Brandt

Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes this book as revolutionary. This description could not have been more spot on. Authors Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman take on the big subject of friendship. Having been friends for years themselves, they combine their experiences into this fascinating book.

Just like the Day of the Dead, this book is not for the uptight. In fact, there are whole parades dedicated to celebrating this momentous occasion, with whole streets shut down. Revelers dress up in costumes, paint their faces to resemble skulls, wear shells, and create a giant ruckus. You will be the odd one out if you are crying at a Day of the Dead ceremony. It is almost as though there is a sign that says: “No tears allowed here.” Just as the ceremony celebrates life instead of mourning death, this book shines a light on the unbreakable bonds amity creates. Just make sure no one’s beside you while you are reading this book because you will be hugging them before you are halfway done.

Who Will Cry When You Die? By Robin Sharma

When you die, will anyone erect an altar in your name? Will anyone sprinkle flowers that will guide you back home every year? When you transition, will anything be left of you that will keep you tethered to this world? Those are incredibly pertinent questions to answer. You see, all of the above can only be possible if you are able to maintain close ties with family members while you are alive. 

Maintaining family relations is hard work. Anyone who has lived old enough will tell you that. However, in Who Will Cry When You Die? Sharma shares the secrets of building and sustaining long-lasting relationships. Family first, he advocates. 

Traveling from the spirit world to the human world can be quite exhausting. It’d certainly help to find some ofrenda (altar) laden with food, waiting for your arrival. Don’t you think so? (Oh, and if you fancy candy too, there are usually sugar skull-shaped candies on these altars, as well as drinks too and marigold petals to guide you back to your loved one. A great reason to make sure your affairs are in order before you transition).

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

These days, it takes a conscious reminder to slow down and disregard the hustle and bustle of life. Being caught up with life and its many distractions is something Shauna Niequist is familiar with. Having survived a near burnout herself, she invites you to join her in the journey of discovery. 

In this book, she paints a picture of the things that truly matter: family, friendship, and love. You can borrow a leaf from the Day of the Dead ceremony. After having fun parading the street all day, family members retire to play games and eat around the ofrenda, trading information about their deceased loved ones. In fact, the calaveras (skulls) used during these celebrations are painted as though they are laughing, laughing at death itself, perhaps. You don’t need a big ceremony to teach you to start living. You have Shauna’s permission to start now.

As you join thousands worldwide to celebrate the Day of the Dead, do not lose sight of what it is about. The event celebrates family and friendship, love and companionship, forgiveness, and patience. The books above teach you how to be in touch with all of those.

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