At anytime during the slideshow, please click on each image for detailed information.
When is Day of the Dead?
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a festival celebration that starts November 1st. The Day of the Dead is November 2nd. This holiday is celebrated by people in Mexico, parts of Central and South America, and increasingly throughout the United States.
Day of the Dead is not Halloween
Halloween's images of skeletons and spirits emphasize the spooky, gruesome, and macabre. People shudder at the thought of scary spirits threatening the living world.
Day of the Dead is not a sad or scary occasion, but a spirited holiday when people remember and honor family members, friends, and even pets who have died. The focus is on celebrating with family and friends - alive and dead. Death is not to be feared, but is a natural part of life.
How is it Celebrated?
Community is an integral part of Mexican life, and most families come together to remember their loved ones and participate in the preparations for reunion. In cemeteries throughout Mexico, where many families keep a night-long vigil by their loved ones' graves, community feasting, music, and storytelling is common.
Families visit graves of their loves ones, clean the headstones, decorate them with flowers, candles, and bring food and music.
People celebrate in their homes, creating altars (called ofrendas in Spanish) that display portraits, favorite foods, and special possessions of their loved ones.
Altars are also decorated with candles and marigolds - the light of the candle and scent of the flowers are said to attract the souls of the deceased and draw them back for a short time to take part in the pleasures they once enjoyed in life.
History of Day of the Dead
Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors had been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500 - 3,000 years. The festival that developed into the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August and was celebrated for an entire month.
This Day of the Dead fact sheet is courtesy of The Armory Center for the Arts. To learn more about the Armory, please click HERE.
Old Pasadena Day of the Dead Weekend 2018
Pasadena celebrated Day of the Dead with the Tours of Altars and more. The above
video is the community altar that CATbox Art Studio was invited to build for the event.
Sugar Skull Tradition
Sugar art was brought to the New World by Italian missionaries in the 17th century. The first Church mention of sugar art was from Palermo at Easter time when little sugar lambs and angels were made to adorn the side altars in the Catholic Church.
Mexico, abundant in sugar production and too poor to buy fancy imported European church decorations, learned quickly from the friars how to make sugar art for their religious festivals. Clay molded sugar figures of angels, sheep and sugar skulls go back to the Colonial Period 18th century. Sugar skulls represented a departed soul, had the name written on the forehead and was placed on the home ofrenda or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit. Sugar skull art reflects the folk art style of big happy smiles, colorful icing and sparkly tin and glittery adornments. Sugar skulls are labor intensive and made in very small batches in the homes of sugar skull makers. These wonderful artisans are disappearing as fabricated and imported candy skulls take their place. There is nothing as beautiful as a big, fancy, unusual sugar skull!
Although it is a holiday from far away in southern Mexico, it's a holiday one can personalize and integrate into their own religious and cultural beliefs. It is more of a cultural holiday than a religious one. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the memories of our loved ones who are now gone; through art, cooking, music, building ofrendas, doing activities with our children, we can recount family stories, fun times and lessons learned, not how the person died, but how they lived!
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