Friday, November 2, 2012

Día de los Muertos

Today is Día de los Muertos, a joyous, upbeat holiday originating in Mexico but now widely celebrated here in the United States. It is a day to celebrate and remember ancestors and departed loved ones. Altars are created in homes that feature pictures of dead loved ones along with favorite objects and food they liked when they were alive (called ofrenda or offerings), decorated sugar skulls, imagery of skeletons and calacas (a figure of a skull or a skeleton), colorful paper cut-outs, candles, and copious amounts of marigolds.

Families go to cemeteries to tend to family plots, gravesides and tombs. There is a carnival-like atmosphere in Mexico as huge crowds descend upon cemeteries to hold all night vigils and cook food not only for themselves but also for the spirits of the departed who can visit this earthly realm one night a year. Old women sit in chairs by the graves while children run and play tag, musicians play and sing, and people sit and talk with family members.

Above: A grave in Ocotepec, a town near Cuernavaca.
Below: Ofrenda in a cemetery in Milpa Alta, Mexico.

Below are four shots of my personal altar I created this year (2012) for Día de los Muertos with
 images of my relatives, ancestors from Italy, and my mom and dad.

Photos by JEF

In the United States, the largest Día de los Muertos celebration is held in San Francisco. A street parade with drumming and dancing attracts thousands of people who dress up in traditional skull face paint and costumes. Nearby Garfield Park is home to many altars honoring the lives of friends and family members. Some altars invite people to participate by adding photos of lost loved ones. The video below, by David C. Hill, is a nice clip of the street parade from 2010.

For more information, visit The Marigold Project at
which sponsors the procession and Garfield Park altars.

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