Friday, October 25, 2013

Day of the Dead proves enjoyable, culturally important

12:56 AM

Jacob Miller
Staff Writer

Day of the Dead, All Souls Day Celebration, or Dia de los Muertos is a day of celebrating, honoring, and remembering the dearly departed, and it is just around the corner.

Sponsored by the Bethel College Department of Social Work and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Day of the Dead festivities set for Saturday, Nov. 2, will offer a multitude of fun activities for all ages.

At 5:00 p.m., parade preparation and face painting will start at Themian Park on Poplar & Eighth St., and at 6:30 p.m., the parade will begin on Main Street. A celebration will follow at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church at 7:15 p.m. on 415 S. Ash Street.

Entertainment during the parade includes performances from Azteca dancers, as well as food items including burritos, tamales, posole, menudo, nachos, tacos and hotdogs.

For Nicole Eitzen, senior from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, Dia de los Muertos back home signaled it was time to make sugar candy skulls and drink a traditional favorite, Mexican hot chocolate. For fun, her family members and former classmates read “calaveras,” or horror stories.

More importantly, Eitzen said Dia de los Muertos meant “arranging photos of my late maternal grandmother and placing flowers on the floor to invite her in and celebrate her life.” Not only that, but her family would set altars for random people who had passed away.

On most altars, the names of the deceased and baskets are placed in front, and a small wooden cross is placed in front of the congregation. The pictures of the departed are placed on the altar because they are the most important and will be remembered. All of this is to ensure that the living remember the deads’ stories, favorite food or hobbies.

Day of the Dead traditions vary according to customs of each region, state or country, but all the traditions have a common theme. All of these celebrations invite people to celebrate late family members, friends, and loved ones.

“As a comparison, Day of the Dead is a combination of the traditional American holidays Memorial Day and Halloween,” said Eitzen.

Eitzen added, “The overall attitude toward death is better in Mexico. We tend not to focus on the burden of death, but rather the joyful celebration of the people’s life.”

Hamilton Williams, associate professor of social work and coordinator for Day of the Dead activities said, “When I came to Newton, there were rich Hispanic heritages, but no activities. It was weird not having a large celebration for Day of the Dead considering back home, Tucson had the largest one in America.”

“Our goal for this event is to bring together a larger community with a minority population, and for both to claim common space,” Williams said.

The celebration in Newton has taken off since previous years, and Williams expects more people to attend this year. Williams said he hopes this celebration will “turn into a steady tradition.”


If interested in building a float, contributing to this event, or learning more about this event, email either parish@olgnewton.org or hwilliams@bethelks.edu or call 316-284-5244.

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