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by CICI SHARSTROM
alloween has forever been a spooky celebration of the undead, but the dead don’t have to be feared. In Mexico, the celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a bright, happy celebration of life. In this tradition, Mexican families focus on honoring the deceased in joyful and exuberant festivities rather than mourning. The cycle of life, which includes death, is honored and accepted with a positive and celebratory energy.
The rituals date back to the Aztec Indians, who were discovered by the Spanish Conquistadors to “mock” death. This unorthodox view of death appealed to the Christian Spaniards, so they moved the date of the ritual to coincide with the Christian All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. In the Christian tradition, these days also mark the return of the spirits of the dead to the mortal world.
To honor this occurrence, families bake treats, especially pan de muertos (bread of the dead), decorate sugar skulls and make papel picado, which is elaborately cut decorative craft paper. They also build altars and put out photos of the deceased, dress colorfully, sing and dance, and have parades. This celebration of life is also an acceptance of death. By living alongside death as a friend, the Mexican people combat the human fear of dying.
The traditions are still very much alive today, and have appealed to many Americans. Day of the Dead events occur throughout the country, and Mexican-American families celebrate the way their ancestors did.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out local happenings around Colorado. The Denver Botanical Gardens will have a Day of the Dead celebration on November 1. Local museums will also be offering cultural insight and displays, including The Longmont Museum and The Cultural Center’s Day of the Dead exhibit, which is the largest in Northern Colorado.
Want to stay local? The Old Town library will host a free Day of the Dead event, which will include storytelling, sugar skull decorating, dancing and eating, and will conclude in a procession through Old Town. For more information on these events, please visit www.downtownfortcollins.com/events.