I've got two kids who are not scared of scary things. That is not to say they aren't intrigued by ghosts, vampires, skeletons, and monsters. They love them. But we are able to talk about ghosts and monsters and even death and we tell elaborate "scary" stories without any of it turning into nightmare fuel. I have always been fascinated with the Mexican festivities surrounding November 2, the Day of the Dead, and how supposedly-frightening images and ideas are spoken about openly and even celebrated as part of life. So last week we visited Detroit's Mexicantown (don't worry, my dear PC-coastal readers, I was as mortified as you when I first heard it called "Mexicantown," but it's even on the signs here) to walk around and learn what we could about the holiday. The neighborhood was all decked out with skulls:

 Our first stop was La Gloria Bakery for sugar ones:

We love stopping by the bakery all year for Mexican baked goods (the churros are especially popular with the backseat crowd) and starting in mid-October they start selling these awesome little sugar skulls.

We bought a handful and some ghost cookies and walked over to Xochi's gift shop on Bagley, which as far as I can tell has the largest selection of Día de los Muertos decorations in town. The storeowner had stepped out for an hour, so we crossed the street and enjoyed a big bowl of menudo at Evie's while we waited for her to return. That's a lie: I enjoyed the tripe and the kids split a burrito. When we were done, Xochi's was open for business:

The kids' eyes widened with each step further into the store, trying to take it all in. Despite my near-constant entreaties not to touch anything, I've seen them less excited in a candy store.

[note to wife: wouldn't that fabric on the far right make a great dress for next year?]
Xochi's doesn't just have its own goods for sale, but hosts offerings and exhibitions made by local artists. Last year there was Diana Alva's offering for Frida Kahlo. This year the offerings were also very beautiful.

If I was a better blogger, I would have written down who this one was intended to honor.
The lady at Xochi's did a good job explaining the significance of everything and teaching us about the traditions. I let the kids each pick out a little statue to bring home and put on display for the Day of the Dead, next to the candy skulls and some candles. My son picked out these two little figurines (he liked the woman with the snake around her neck).

My daughter picked out this larger Catrina:

Yesterday, on Día de los Muertos, I had the kids at home all day and we sat together on the chair in front of our "offering" looking at pictures from when they were babies. This wasn't intentional, but in that chair we looked at pictures of my infant daughter in the arms of my grandmother who died five years ago. And we looked at pictures of my daughter with her Grandpa Doug, who died after a battle with cancer in 2007. We saw him in pictures from the first day he met her (just hours after she was born) to the days when she sat on his lap in the hospital during the worst of his chemotherapy. And I told Gram about him, how he never got to meet him, but how his Grandpa Doug knew he was coming. They had many questions of course, the sort of questions adults are squeamish to answer. But I tried.

And they weren't scared at all to talk about it.

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