July 16th, 2024

Day of the Dead comes to life at Galt community program


By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 12, 2023.

Herald photo by Theodora MacLeod Participants of the Galt Museum's Creative Community program decorate baskets for Day of the Dead, beside a selection of bright and symbolic elements commonly found on altars to welcome the spirits of deceased loved ones during the Mexican celebration.

Tissue paper, glue, and candy were the tools of choice for Wednesday’s Creative Community program at the Galt Museum, where adults and seniors were invited to learn a little bit about Dia De Los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead. After a brief lesson on Mexico and the signature celebration from Tyler Gschaid, who was standing in for his partner Oscar Gomez, participants got to work decorating baskets that were later filled with Mexican candy.

The baskets represent offerings or ofrendas that are set out on the altar dedicated to loved ones who have died. Around November 1 and 2, the souls of the departed are said to return during the celebration known as Day of the Dead to English speakers.

These offerings are traditionally placed on the middle or lower level of the altar (depending on the layout) and can include things such as favourite foods, mementos, and sweets. Other key elements often found on the altar are candles, photos of deceased loved ones, a glass of water, salt, flowers- especially marigolds, and sugar skulls or calaveras.

While occasionally misrepresented as Mexican Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of death rather than a spooky holiday. The roots of the festival have been traced back thousands of years with Indigenous Mexicans, though the introduction of Catholicism by Spanish colonists in the early 16 century resulted in the festival becoming aligned with the timing of All Saints’ and All Souls’ days in early November.

The first day of the celebration is dedicated to children who have died and is known as Dia de los Angelitos. It is believed that the spirits of children arrive before adults as they are eager to return and can outrun their older counter parts.

At the Galt it was all smiles and creativity as participants eagerly arranged and glued brightly coloured tissue paper to their baskets. The energy and vibrance representative of the festival that will come in a few short weeks.

The program will be offered again for children of all ages and their caregivers this Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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