By Bobinec, Greg on November 4, 2019.
Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican tradition that intertwines ancient aspects of pre-Hispanic culture with Christian beliefs to create a unique annual event of remembrance for the deceased.
Bringing the Mexican tradition to Lethbridge is the Galt Museum that hosted its second annual Day of the Dead celebrations with activities for families to take part in, as well as the observation of a large Day of the Dead altar display.
“Today we are acknowledging the Day of the Dead and we have an expert who is a certified altar creator who has set up a display to celebrate the Day of the Dead,” says Rebecca Wilde, museum educator. “Throughout the day, we are doing some crafts for families to make which are related to the Day of the Dead.”
Dia de los Muertos is a celebration to respect, honour and remember those in our lives who have passed on and to welcome them back with a variety of offerings through the altar that is created. In Mexico, the day is celebrated through music, food, dancing and coming together.
The Galt Museum brought in Sandra Juell, a teacher from Mexico and a certified altar creator who has been living in Canada for over a decade, to set up a Day of the Dead altar with all of the different elements it requires.
“We celebrate the Day of the Dead on November 2, and for us it is not a sad day, it is a party day where we celebrate and remember our dead family and people with this altar which is seven steps with all of the elements,” says Juell. “According to the tradition, they come this night and come to the altar and enjoy all of the elements that are here.”
The elements on the altar start with a portrait of the deceased to pay tribute to those they want to remember, followed by an offering of water which is believed to quench the thirst of thirsty spirits. The symbol for purification, salt, is then laid out with an offering of bread which is a common food offering for spirits. Other food and beverage offerings such as chocolate, fruit and tequila is also placed on another step of the seven-set altar. Capal, a special fragrance, is burned at the altar and has two meanings, first to purify the place of evil spirits and second to connect with the sky. The final element of the altar is the candle, crosses and sugar skills which help light the way to the altar.
Since the first Day of the Dead celebration at the Galt last year, the community has welcomed the cultural experience and Juell says it is very heartwarming to have so many people come out to see the altar and learn about her culture’s heritage and celebration.
“I am very proud and excited to have many Canadians come up and ask me about it and want to learn about it,” says Juell. “Fortunately this is my second year at the Galt Museum, they allow me to set up the altar and last year it was much smaller, but now it is huge and we have so many people who come out to this event, now we have to extend even more because hundreds of people are expected to come throughout the day.”
As Latin communities around the globe come together to celebrate, remember, and honour those individuals in their lives that have passed on, the Lethbridge community joins them in celebrating and learning about the history. Dia de los Muertos was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008.
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