Panhandle Perspectives - Oct. 18, 2016

The Day of the Dead celebration

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator, Scotts Bluff County

El Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, is celebrated Nov. 1 to remember loved ones who are deceased by celebrating their lives with festivals, parades, food, and ofrendas (offers).

Panhandle Perspectives
Jackie Guzman

The Day of the Dead originated in Mexico and combines beliefs about death from the indigenous people, who believed that death is the passage to new life, meshed with the Catholic traditions of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2) brought to Mexico with the Conquistadors.

El Dia de los Muertos is celebrated all over Latin America and even in some parts of the United States. Each celebration varies, depending on the location.  Some take place in cemeteries where families create ofrendas with photos, favorite items, marigolds, and favorite food of the deceased, culminating with a picnic. Some ofrendas are created in homes, often decorated with paper flowers, papel picado (paper banners cut into elaborate designs), sugar skulls or paper mache skulls, and food.

Food typically associated with the Day of the Dead Celebration includes mole (chicken or pork cooked in a red chile sauce made with peanuts and chocolate); pan de muerto (bread made in the shape of bones or people); and sugar or chocolate made into the shape of skulls.

Calacas, figures of skulls or skeletons made of wood, paper mache, candy and sugar, are depicted as happy and dancing in honor of deceased relatives. Calacas have become very popular, often seen in modern art, movies, on t-shirts, and even faces painted in this manner on Halloween.

This Mexican tradition teaches that death is not a sad occasion rather a time to remember, celebrate, and honor loved ones who have preceded us in death. 

The World Wide Web has resources for making Day of the Dead arts and crafts for kids. Here is one: