Arts and Culture Editor
Everyone knows this past Monday October 31 was Halloween. While that’s spooky in and of itself, the latino culture brings the world something just a little more interesting. October 31 through November 2 is when Dia de los Muertos — or “Day of the Dead”– is celebrated. This past Monday, October 31, the Society on Latino Affairs, or SOLA, held a Dia de los Muertos day in the Student Memorial Center Atrium. They had a display featuring coffins, tombstones, and decorated skulls. They had face painting and coffin painting in order to celebrate this holiday.
While widely celebrated in Latin America, this holiday that honors the dead originated in Mexico. It’s officially celebrated November 1 and November 2 which coincides with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, two catholic holidays. On November 1, people celebrate and honor dead children and infants while November 2 is the day people honor and celebrate adults.
The idea is that the dead dislike mourning and grieving and sadness in general. Instead, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the dead by doing activities most enjoyed in life: eating, partying, and dancing. In Latin America, this is usually a community event where celebrations, festivals, and parades. It’s believed the dead come back to their homes on Earth visit and be reunited with their loved ones. The idea of Dia de los Muertos is to celebrate life and allow the dead to celebrate that same life as well. Death is looked at as a part of life that comes after birth, adolescence, and adulthood. People who celebrate the holiday want to reunite the dead with their community through activities and festivities the dead enjoyed while living.
Now, this is primarily a celebration of love. However, some people celebrate Dia de los Muertos out of fear. The belief is that if the spirit comes back home and finds a lack of celebration or honor for them, the spirit will become sad, angry, and a little jealous of what the other spirits are being given by their families and loved ones. The spirits who were forgotten by their so-called “loved ones” become full of vengeance. Some tall tales tell stories of people becoming sick and dying shortly after this holiday, probably because they failed to honor their loved ones.
Many people who celebrate this holiday will go to cemeteries, usually the one in which their loved one rests, and creates an altar for them. On this altar are a variety of things pertaining specifically to that person, but they’re are also many common symbols associated with the holiday that are represented on their altar.
Most people recognize skulls and skeletons as being a majorly popular emblem for Dia de los Muertos. These are known respectively as calaveras and calacas. Usually, these skeletons are dressed in really nice clothing or are doing something fun, something enjoyable the dead did while living. These are also referred to as “sugar skulls”. They’re decorated and placed on the altars dedicated to people’s loved ones. While edible, most people do not actually eat the sugar skulls.
Another symbol associated with Dia de los Muertos is the yellow marigold. It stands for the “short duration of life”. These are usually placed on the altars of the deceased next to the sugar skulls.
Feel free to check out SOLA’s display of Dia de los Muertos where this information as well as much more can be found.