Dia de los Muertos—A day to Celebrate the Lives of Departed Loved Ones

Kait LeonardBy Kait Leonard

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Dia de los Muertos—A day to Celebrate  the Lives of Departed Loved Ones
skullpexels-thirdman-1918290 Face painting and decorated skulls are traditions honoring the departed as are favorite foods, drink, music, and dancing.
skullpexels-thirdman-1918290 Face painting and decorated skulls are traditions honoring the departed as are favorite foods, drink, music, and dancing.
pexels-thirdman-7614904 Celebrate this cultural festival with a spirit of respect and a desire to learn.
Though Dia de los Muertos brings festivals galore, it’s important to keep in mind that this special day is more than sugar skulls and margaritas. The Day of the Dead is a sacred time of honoring loved ones who have passed away.

Because of the deep cultural roots of this occasion, it’s important to consider questions of appropriation before making plans to party. Sometimes it’s difficult to define the line that separates cultural appreciation from cultural appropriation. The difference can lie in the intention for attending an event or adopting a tradition, according to Greenheart International, a nonprofit that supports cultural exchange.

If you’re painting your face like a skull so you can go to the local bar and get blasted, you may be on the wrong side of the line. But if you participate in cultural festivities with a spirit of respect and a desire to learn, it can be appropriate and richly rewarding.

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in contemporary Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage. Its roots date back 3,000 years to spiritual practices in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, according to information provided on the History website.

During this special period, it’s believed that the veil between the world of the living and the dead thins, allowing spirits to return to the material world. During their visit, they enjoy food, drink, music and dancing with their loved ones. Living family members often visit the graves of departed loved ones, bringing offerings of favorite foods. It’s also common for family members to enjoy a meal at the graveside, a kind of bi-worldly family dinner.

Local Events
For those interested in honoring this beautiful cultural holiday, the events below might be of interest.

Main Street Canoga Park is hosting the 21st annual Dia de los Muertos Family Festival on November 7th from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Spend the afternoon enjoying dance performances, live music, a classic car show, arts and crafts, and much more. For information: mainstreetcanogapark.la/.

The Olvera Street Merchants Association Foundation is hosting its annual Dia de los Muertos festival, which they’ve held for more than 35 years. Bring the family and explore community altars, outdoor displays, a Novenario procession, face painting. Teatro del Barrio will be presenting La Danza de la Muerte at 6:00 p.m. on November 1 and 2. This play dramatizes the story of Dia de los Muertos. For information: olveraevents.com/day-of-the-dead-olvera-street.

If you’re in the mood to take in some art, Grand Park’s Downtown Dia de los Muertos is hosting a public art installation through November 2. Attendees are welcome to contribute to the community altar and to explore the 20 altars made by professional artists and community organizations. The park is located between Grand Avenue and Hill Street and the hours are 5:30 a.m. through 10:00 p.m. For information: grandparkla.org/event/downtown-dia-de-los-muertos-2021/.

Sure to be a spectacle, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is hosting the 20th annual Dia de los Muertos celebration on November 2nd from 12:00 p.m. to midnight. This year’s guiding theme is the Monarch butterfly and the Mexican state of Michoacán, where the winged beauties spend every winter and where the Day of the Dead has been celebrated the longest. Tickets are $30, and more information is available at funwithkidsinla.com/event-details/dia-de-los-muertos-at-hollywood-forever.

While there’s still time to explore and celebrate this rich, cultural tradition, you might choose to honor your own departed loved ones in a way that is more personal. Invite friends and family to a dinner where you serve the favorite dishes of those who have passed, visit graves or other places of significance, or simply pour a glass of your favorite beverage and look through your family photo album.
Remember, the veil is thin during this period, so don’t forget to put a few extra plates on the table. You never know who might be floating in for the evening. n

Greenheart International, greenheart.org/blog/greenheart-international/cultural-appreciation-vs-cultural-appropriation-why-it-matters/
History, history.com/topics/halloween/day-of-the-dead
PBS, pbs.org/education/blog/beyond-sugar-skulls-the-history-and-culture-of-dia-de-los-muertos
HipLATINA, hiplatina.com/dia-de-los-muertos-6-things-you-should-know-before-painting-your-face/
Kait Leonard

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October 29, 2021