On November 1st, 2017 the Upper School Art and Spanish classes sponsored a short program and celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). As always, WCDS believes in celebrating the diversity in our community and providing our students with as many culture-based experiences as possible during the school year.
Day of the Dead is a family holiday celebrated in central and southern Mexico November 1st and 2nd. This is not be confused with our own Halloween and All-Saints Day celebrations, which happen to fall on or around the same dates. Dia de los Muertos is a happy holiday, not intended to be evil, frightening or scary in any way.
It is believed that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all children who have passed away (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours, much like our concept of guardian angels. On November 2, the spirits of the deceased adults in our families come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.
In most villages, beautiful altars or ofrendas, are made in each home. They are decorated with candles, flowers, fruit, peanuts, turkey mole, tortillas and big Day-of-the-Dead breads called pan de muerto. The altar must have plenty of food, soda, hot cocoa and water for the weary spirits. Toys and candies are left for the angelitos, and on Nov. 2, cigarettes and mezcal are offered to the adult spirits. Decorated sugar skulls are used for decoration.
Day of the Dead is a very expensive holiday for most families. Many spend over two month's income to honor their deceased relatives. They believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families. Ofrenda building and visitation keeps the family close.
On the afternoon of Nov. 2, the festivities are taken to the cemetery. People clean tombs and graves, play cards, listen to the village band and reminisce about their loved ones. These celebrations keep traditions alive in Hispanic culture. Day of the Dead is becoming very popular in the U.S. It is fascinating to us probably because we don't really have a way to celebrate and honor our dead and because we love the different view of death.