An ancient race that dwelt in Mexico once wrote, “We only come
to dream, we only come to sleep; it is not true that we come to
live on Earth.” Dia de los Muertos translates that prophecy into a
mortal manifestation. I elaborated my first altar for Dia De Los
Muertos two years ago just weeks after my father had passed away.
That first altar brought me peace and healing, helping me recognize
the cycle of life and death that is the human existence.
The original celebration of Day of the Dead can be traced to the
festivities held during the Aztec month of Miccaihuitontli, the
goddess of the dead and dedicated to children and the dead.
This ritual fell approximately in the Gregorian calendar to the
month of July, but in the post conquest era Spanish priest moved it
to Nov. 2 so that it coincided with the Christian holiday of All
The result is that all of Latin America celebrates the day of
the dead during the first two days of November, rather than at the
beginning of summer.
In Mexico the tradition is characterized by the traditional
Mexican blend of ancient traditions and Christian features.
The day’s activities consist of families visiting the grave
sites of their love ones. While at home they elaborate an altar in
honor of deceased relatives, decorating it with religious amulets,
candles, flowers (marigolds and chrysanthemums), and adorned with
sugar skulls that are marked with name of the deceased across the
The altar often includes photographs of the departed along with
their favorite earthly pleasures like bottles of tequila, beer,
cigarettes and their favorite food.
Because of this warm social environment, the colorful setting
and the abundance of food and drink the celebration of the dead has
been adopted by Californians of all ethnic backgrounds.
In California traditions around the Day of the Dead celebrations
have had a few modifications; altars are often elaborated at
community centers, schools or art galleries rather than private
This commemoration of the dead has pleasant overtones not
limited to festive interaction with living and dead, but also an
opportunity for healing community building.
This year Mujeres Unidas invites all of the Mills community to
participate in our community altar.
Death unites all of us despite our culture or religious
background we should celebrate our ultimate journey and honor our
time together on this earth.
Our Community Altar will be elaborated on Thursday October 30 at
7:30 p.m. in the Student Union.
We will also be hosting a sugar skull making workshop, we
encourage all to bring pictures of loved ones and help us celebrate
this time-honored tradition.