I wrote a post in 2008 likening the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration to the southern tradition of Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day). My friend Bobbye was the first person to tell me about Decoration Day and she shared the history of the tradition from the cleaning of the graves to the church services and dinner of the ground:
“The families arrived early Sunday morning to place the flowers on the graves before Church services began. The Mother was a walking ‘oral Historian’ and she could identify every grave. Many of the Mothers would bring baskets of flowers from their gardens. She and the children would place flowers on forgotten graves .Then the whole family would file into the church building and fill up a whole row. Sometimes, there would be as many as five generations on a given row. Flowers would be given to the oldest mother and the youngest mother in attendance. Also, there were flowers for the mother that had the most children and for the mother that had the most children in attendance with her.”
So much of this has changed but Bobbye remains my personal oral historian for her own family history, the state of Alabama and the entire south.