In the West, we deny it like an unwanted presence in the room and rarely speak about it unless we're taking the day off work to go to a funeral. That one-day ceremony that we attend and then leave; walking away from the funeral with no more support in place to help us grieve our loved ones. In Mexico, it's a completely different story; death is the culturally embraced elephant in the room, Mexican's dress it up in colour, make friends with it and take part in a yearly ritual that acknowledges this inevitable part of life, the part of life that makes this moment all the more precious for accepting that it's there.
Experiencing El Dia De Los Muertos first hand in Oaxaca was a life affirming thing to witness. Graveyards are lit with kaleidoscope of freshly picked flowers, families congregate around their dearly departed's graveyard and share a meal like they're deceased is right there with them. Annually in Mexico, the somewhat dark topic for us in the West is lightened with colour, celebration and acceptance - families that have recently suffered a loss might find extra benefit in this yearly support party, perhaps for them it’s a reminder that they're not alone.
For cultures that do embrace death, they tend to - by coincidence or by parallelism - embrace celebration as well, whether it's through dancing, festivals or music. Perhaps the reason these cultures celebrate more often is because they understand life is a temporary opportunity for expression in this body. The short 100 years or less that our body is on loan is a fraction of the time that it will exist in other forms and so rather than grow attached and fearful of the inevitable, a better use of our time is to find all the ways to express ourselves while we exist in this form.
It seems that cultures that are willing to confront the topic of death, also know how to live. Knowing that they’re on earth for a short time; these cultures allow themselves more time to celebrate, dance, make art, music and come together as a community.