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December 5, 2022

Memorializing With Merriment

Celebration combines Aztec, Christian and New World traditions

Healdsburg’s Plaza was alive with Dia de los Muertos celebrations recently. Pathways in the plaza were chalked with flor de muerto, marigold petals were strewn about, exhibits were on display, and vintage cars and tricked-out trucks from Chicano Truckin were parked on the  perimeter. 

Some offered trick or treat candy, while others displayed ofrenda, altars to passed loved ones. 

Calaveras, calacas, ofrenda, music, costumes, dancing, food and people abounded amongst the spirits of the dead. 

The Dia de los Muertos festival is, reportedly, a combination of Aztec, Christian and New World traditions. The Aztec reverence for those passed, mixed with Christianity’s All Souls Day, began to emerge as a two-day festival in Mexico. It spread through Latin America, the Philippines and many places in the U.S. 

An emblematic skull painted on peoples’ faces in black and white with a joker-esque smile may be hard to reckon for people not familiar with the holiday. However, when you know that the dead frown on sadness, the smiles become an expression of buried wisdom. Dia de los Muertos is a unique holiday celebrating death with joy, observing the continuation of life through the ages, honoring the past and living fully in the present.

Fun facts: Dia de los Muertos is a multi-day festival beginning Halloween at midnight; the first day, Dia de los Angelitos, is the day of the innocents or children; and the second day, Dia de los Difuntos, is the day of adults.

Ofrenda are offerings, which also refer to the small personal altars on which offerings are placed; calaveras are skulls often drawn with a smile to laugh at death; calacas are skeletons; and marigolds are flor de muerto, the bright orange flower used in graves and other decorations during this festival.  

Corazon Healdsburg sponsors this local event. Its mission is to “strengthen the Latino voice to help build a compassionate and just community, dignifying individuals and families, advocating against injustice and uniting people to celebrate diversity.”