First time attending a Day of the Dead Celebration? Confused about the difference between Day of the Dead and Halloween? Esta bien. Check out these top 5 things to help you understand this festive Mexican holiday. ¡Disfrutar!
1. A SHORT HISTORY OF DAY OF THE DEAD
The Día de los Muertos originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth.
Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Observance of the holiday in Mexican-American communities in the United States has become more important and widespread as the community grows numerically and economically.
Many people believe that during the Day of the Dead, it is easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. People will go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed, and will build private altars, containing the favorite foods and beverages, and photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.
3. WHAT'S UP WITH ALL THE SKELETONS?
During Day of the Dead, life-size papier-mâché skeletons and miniature plastic or clay skeletons are everywhere. Why? Mexicans honor their ancestors on Day of the Dead, but they're also reminding themselves that death is just a part of life. Hanging out with skeletons reminds people that one day they will be skeletons. The skeletons are often posed doing all sorts of everyday things, such as playing guitar, taking a bath, or making tortillas.
4. WHO IS LA CATRINA?
The La Catrina/El Catrin has also become one of the most recognized characters associated with Día de los Muertos . At Dia de los Muertos festivities throughout the Americas, we see more and more women, young and old, wearing fancy gowns and hats, and painting their faces to look like calaveras de azúcar, or sugar skulls. La Catrina has become the preeminent symbol of the afterlife and is la grand dame of all Dia de los Muertos festivities. But who is La Catrina?
In the early 20th century, Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French garb and called it Calavera Garbancera, intending it as social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos somos calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our manmade trappings, we are all the same. Today, La Catrina has grown to be much more than just a caricature of Mexican women denying their indigenous ancestry. Instead, she, and her male counterpart El Catrin, are now considered the faces of death in Mexico and in other parts of the world where Día de los Muertos is celebrated.
5. IT'S NOT A MEXICAN "HALLOWEEN"
While Halloween and Day of the Dead do share some common roots, they are totally different holidays. Rather than treating death as something dark and frightening, t he Day of the Dead is largely about laughing in the face of death, as represented by the ubiquitous calaveras and Catrinas, which are often depicted dancing or playing music. And though it is about remembering lost loved ones, the holiday is more a time to celebrate their memories than to mourn their loss.
We invite you to learn more about this festive Mexican tradition at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center 's Día de los Muertos Celebration on Saturday, October 27th from 11am-6pm. The event features traditional Mexican musical & dance performances, traditional food, a beer garden, and a variety of hands-on activities for the whole family. Plus a chance to win prizes in our Catrina dress-up contest! While at the event you may also experience a folk art exhibit of traditional altars and other art that is related to this significant and expressive Mexican holiday.
One of the most recognized characters associated with Dia de los Muertos is La Catrina. With recent films like The Book of Life and Coco garnering critical acclaim and tremendous success at the box office, we see the popularity of Dia de los Muertos growing amongst people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds. At Dia de los Muertos festivities throughout the Americas, we see more and more women, young and old, wearing fancy gowns and hats, and painting their faces to look like calaveras de azúcar, or sugar skulls. La Catrina has become the preeminent symbol of the afterlife and is la grand dame of all Dia de los Muertos festivities. But who is La Catrina?
The iconic figure was first imagined by Mexican artist and printmaker, José Guadalupe Posada. First appearing around 1910, La Calavera Catrina depicts a female skeleton adorning a fancy European style hat. Posada’s creation was a satirical commentary on native Mexican women, who, in Posada’s opinion, were neglecting and even willfully choosing to forget their Mexican heritage in pursuit of a wealthy, upper-class, European lives. Clearly a political statement at the time, La Calavera Catrina and the leaflet she first appeared on has evolved into a symbol of lasting cultural significance, especially as related to Dia de los Muertos.
La Catrina has grown to be much more than just a caricature of Mexican women denying their indigenous ancestry. Instead, she, and her male counterpart El Catrin, are now considered the faces of death in Mexico and in other parts of the world where Dia de los Muertos is celebrated.
Over time this imagery has evolved far beyond Posada’s sketch to include costuming and parading, fine art (see Diego Rivera’s 1924 painting, Day of the Dead, or 1948’s Sunday Evening’s Dream), and especially folk art. Placed on altars and sold at festivals and events, La Catrina and other skeleton figures made of wood, paper, clay, and even cornhusks are depicted acting out any number of activities. Whether dancing, going out on the town, or enjoying a glass of wine, the figures remind us that life is indeed a part of death, something we will all experience, and is most certainly nothing to be feared. Unfortunately, Dia de los Muertos is often confused with Halloween, horror, and haunts. La Catrina and her skeletal friends remind us that it is instead a holiday of sacred remembrance and festive celebration.
Join the Day of Dead Celebration at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center on Saturday, October 27th from 11am-6pm!
This week, over 570 fifth and sixth grade students from eleven West Valley City schools participated in the Utah Cultural Celebration Center’s University Diversity Mash-Up. This after school program is designed to inspire students to dream big, think about what kind of career they may want in the future, and to explore options in higher education that will get them there. The program lasts 90 minutes and consists of three mashup stations where students learn about the value of higher education, different types of certificates and degrees, and “try out” different fields through interactive, hands-on activities.
The purpose of the University Diversity Mash-Up is to help build a college-bound culture in West Valley City, where educational attainment continues to lag behind both the county and state statistics. Now in its eighth year, the University Diversity Mash-Up works to have a positive impact on long-term statistics, increase the rates of high school graduation, and pursuit of higher education. This educational program also cultivates unique relationships with other educational organizations and institutions including Salt Lake Community College, the University of Utah, Westminster College, UVU Women’s Leadership Project, WVC Youth City Council, and the Community Education Partnership of WVC.
To learn more about the University Diversity Mash-Up and other educational programs at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center at https://www.culturalcelebration.org/education.html.
by Taylor Timmerman
On Saturday, October 28th, over 3500 people gathered at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center for our 14th annual Dia de los Muertos Celebration. The colorful and lively community festival shared the sacred Mexican holiday that celebrates the life of friends and family whom have passed and serves as a reminder that they have not been forgotten. With a mix of traditional and contemporary stylizations, our Dia de los Muertos welcomed families that observe the holiday in their own home, and also helped to educate and share this cultural event with the wider community.
By Taylor Timmerman
In partnership with the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, the Utah Cultural Celebration Center is proud to present BOB HOPE: AN AMERICAN TREASURE.
The 2,200-square foot traveling exhibit tells the story of the Guinness World Records book “most honored” entertainer through a series of 15 themed exhibit display units that celebrate his comedic contributions, achievements in entertainment, relationships with a number of U.S. Presidents, and his other passion – golf. It traces his family’s arrival at Ellis Island, life as part of an immigrant family in Cleveland, his struggles to succeed in New York in entertainment, the success and family life he found in Holly wood, and how golf and his love for the military took him around the world.
The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos in Spanish) is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage (and others) living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day which take place on those days. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Observance of the holiday in Mexican-American communities in the United States has become more important and widespread as the community grows numerically and economically.
By Jeff Olsen, @JeffOlsen76
Construction is underway. Stay tuned to this post for periodic photo updates. An overview of the project: we're adding classrooms, new prep areas, offices, and storage. Upgrades to existing HVAC, A/V, and other systems will also be performed.
Project Overview and Layout
Click "Read More" for construction update photos!
By Michael Christensen, @folkloremike
Currently on display in the Celebration Gallery is Eye Hand Mind: Selections from the Africa Meets Africa Project. The Utah Cultural Celebration Center is presenting the exhibition in partnership with the University of Utah’s International & Area Studies Program, Center for Science and Math Education, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. As a result of the project, the museum added thirteen new objects to their permanent collection. These beer pot covers, arm/leg bands, bandoliers, aprons, belts, and acrylic works are the primary focus of the exhibition, which is part of a larger effort to teach math and science through art from South Africa.