Grave Hopping, Kite Flying & Cotton Candy -- Celebrating Day of the Dead!

November 1, 2014. A truly magical day, one that we will always remember. Sometimes I still can't believe we're living here. 

November 1, 2014. A truly magical day, one that we will always remember. Sometimes I still can't believe we're living here. 

There was no trick-or-treating for us this year (Halloween is not celebrated in Guatemala). But don't feel bad. We spent an amazing day in Santiago and Sumpango joining in the celebrations for Day of the Dead. In Santiago, this takes place in the cemetery and the surrounding town. Gravestones, mounds and tombs were decorated with grassy leaves, marigolds and other flowers. Huge kites are erected as a symbolic gesture to speaking with the dead in heaven (or something like that). 

This little piggie went to...

This little piggie went to...

Elle is always happy with cotton candy in her hands! Love the decorated grave marker and erected advertisement for Tigo, a local cell phone company. 

Elle is always happy with cotton candy in her hands! Love the decorated grave marker and erected advertisement for Tigo, a local cell phone company. 

Panoramic view of the cemetery in Santiago set atop a hill. The bamboo poles are the beginnings of a big kite. I admire their passion and unique ability to celebrate the dead. 

Panoramic view of the cemetery in Santiago set atop a hill. The bamboo poles are the beginnings of a big kite. I admire their passion and unique ability to celebrate the dead. 

Marigolds are known as the "flower of the dead" and are an important symbol of Day of the Dead.

Marigolds are known as the "flower of the dead" and are an important symbol of Day of the Dead.

Here is a family getting ready to fly their medium size kite. The father is poking a hole in the center to thread rope through the middle. 

Here is a family getting ready to fly their medium size kite. The father is poking a hole in the center to thread rope through the middle. 

Tag was the first one of us on top of this tomb. He enjoyed jumping off of it. Not long after, the rest of us joined him and we had an ideal spot to watch local Guatemalan boys and men stand up three different kites. The rope on one kite got stuck and a man had to climb the tree stub and adjust the harness. 

Tag was the first one of us on top of this tomb. He enjoyed jumping off of it. Not long after, the rest of us joined him and we had an ideal spot to watch local Guatemalan boys and men stand up three different kites. The rope on one kite got stuck and a man had to climb the tree stub and adjust the harness. 

We just happened to be standing on one of the best tombs for viewing the raising of two kites. Not only is the craftsmanship of the kites breathtaking, but the camaraderie of the boys and men working to lift a 40 foot kite made entirely of tissue paper, bamboo and tape brings tears to one's eyes. Seriously, I could have watched that all day.

Mick's favorite kite. It's hard to believe these are made with tissue paper. The details are stunning.

Mick's favorite kite. It's hard to believe these are made with tissue paper. The details are stunning.

From the front, it's nearly impossible to see any tape. I suspect there is glue too, but it's done to blend in with the design on the kite. The detail reminds me of complex patterns sewed into intricately made quilts. 

From the front, it's nearly impossible to see any tape. I suspect there is glue too, but it's done to blend in with the design on the kite. The detail reminds me of complex patterns sewed into intricately made quilts. 

The celebration at Sumpango was a bit different. We hiked to the top of a hill (ideal for kite flying) where at least 30 kites ranging from 12 to 40 feet in diameter were presented. Soon after our arrival, they started flying the 12 foot kites. During our time there, three were successfully flying hundreds of feet in the air. Other kites took off only to dive back to earth where the awaiting crowd protected the heads of small children and open beers. 

Sumpango, the second celebration we attended. The cemetery is off to the side and the kites are erected in an open, muddy field. We all went home with dirty shoes. Tag's, of course, were the dirtiest!

Sumpango, the second celebration we attended. The cemetery is off to the side and the kites are erected in an open, muddy field. We all went home with dirty shoes. Tag's, of course, were the dirtiest!

Several kites had holes built into the shape to make it more resistant to strong winds. 

Several kites had holes built into the shape to make it more resistant to strong winds. 

A view of the back of a kite where one can see the tape and feel that it really is regular tissue paper.

A view of the back of a kite where one can see the tape and feel that it really is regular tissue paper.

Kite construction from behind.

Kite construction from behind.

Both towns had several pigs roasting, cotton candy spinning, popcorn popping and many other traditional Guatemalan eats. Needless to say, Ken feasted. Elle ate 3 bags of popcorn, 1 lollipop and cotton candy. That probably doesn't surprise anyone!

Oh' the curls on this kid (and the scalp on the other)!

Oh' the curls on this kid (and the scalp on the other)!

The Dragon kite, probably Tag's favorite. Look carefully at the bottom and you can see a 3D dragon head sticking out. Clearly the woman depicted in the kite is pre-children.  

The Dragon kite, probably Tag's favorite. Look carefully at the bottom and you can see a 3D dragon head sticking out. Clearly the woman depicted in the kite is pre-children.  

Ken's favorite kite. incredible art.

Ken's favorite kite. incredible art.

Watch out for huge flying kites! Protect your eyes!

Watch out for huge flying kites! Protect your eyes!

And the icing on the cake -- neither of our kids got sick in the car. Score!