The Bay Area is a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions. One of the greatest challenges and joys of the work we do here at Cypress Lawn is building a team that can understand and identify with the many ethnic groups that fill our neighborhoods. Just like every individual is unique, every ethnicity is unique, with traditions and rituals that define its identity.
The Mexican people comprise the largest Latino group in the Bay Area – accounting for just under 10% of our population. Many of their traditions, particularly as they relate to funeral service, are an amalgamation of Mayan, Aztec, and Catholic beliefs. Although every person is different, those who are a part of Mexican culture tend to have a deep, religious view of death, co-mingled with a relaxed acceptance of death. Family is important, so the grief is very real, but the Catholic belief in eternal life in heaven softens the blow.
Many have heard of the “Day of the Dead,” which is observed on November 2nd in Mexico and in some places in the Bay Area. It is a celebration that includes skeleton decorations, dancing, and music. It exemplifies their deep belief in an afterlife which eases the grief that comes after a loss.
In Mexico, after a death, a vigil is held with family and friends for 24-48 hours. They will eat and drink together, and guests will pray and bring the family gifts. The deceased will be buried with their clothing and important possessions. Children will be included from a young age.
Mexican-American funerals are different than their homeland counterparts, but the influences and rituals are still visible:
- Children will most likely be present at the wake and funeral. From an early age children are taught about death and eternal life and are typically comfortable with the idea.
- Wakes are held after a death, and often become a social event where food is shared along with laughter and memories of the deceased.
- The funeral typically includes a Catholic Mass.
- You can expect to see open displays of emotion, but more so from women than men.
- Traditional burial is a more popular choice among Mexican-Americans, although that is changing. Either way, the families like to have a spot to return to on special days to remember their loved one. All dead ancestors are celebrated each year on All Soul’s Day. Graveside services are also important.
- A reception is very common after a Mexican-American funeral. Mourners gather, share food and drink, and comfort one another in their loss.
Part of the beauty of living in the Bay Area, and being a part of Cypress Lawn, is being able to participate in such meaningful expressions of love and grief. At the heart of everything we do is a firm belief that every life, every family, and every culture is unique and worthy to be celebrated. Through embracing traditions and rituals and expressing them through a funeral service, you can begin to move your family towards healing. At Cypress Lawn, we’re experts at creating these moments for you.