Updated 6:28 pm October 28, 2013
Death is celebrated in good spirits for Dia de los Muertos
by Juan Reyes Oct 28, 2013 2:27 pm Tags: death, Dia de los Muertos, Halloween, Plaza de Cesar Chavez
Spartan Daily Tania Rojas (far right) takes the time to pose for a picture with other participants of the Dia de los Muertos Celebration in downtown San Jose on Sunday morning.
It may come as a surprise to some that Cinco de Mayo is not the only popular holiday in Mexican culture.
Hundreds of people showed up across the street of El Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose on Sunday to march down to the Martin Luther King Jr. library for a pre-celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, as it's known here in the U.S. This may be the oldest celebrated holiday in Mexico and the Mesoamerican regions with evidence dating back to the Spanish Conquest.
This particular holiday typically starts on Nov. 2 in Mexico, but can begin as early as Oct. 27 in other countries. Dia de los Muertos is a time to recognize the dead and to remember all of those who have passed on, particularly dear friends and family members. Lolo Minako recognized one of her ancestors during the abnormal, jovial holiday.
“My great grandmother is a very special person that we lost and she was kind of a soulmate to us,” Minako said. “This is a good time for me to remember and honor her memory.”
Minako was dressed up for the occasion in her olive green and black dress and white face paint, and stood about nine feet tall on a pair of stilts that she said didn't take long to learn to use.
Next to Minako was Chiquy Boom, another stilt walker who came out to celebrate the festivities to honor the dead.
“It signifies the memory of the people we have lost dearly,” Boom said. “To me, this holiday is very important because I take the time to recognize my mom and all the close friends that have passed away. It’s a way to keep them alive in our hearts and in our minds.”
A group of Aztec dancers put on a show to commemorate the holiday by performing a traditional ritual honoring the goddess Mictecacihuatl, Queen of the Underworld, or Lady of the Dead. The Aztecs believed the deceased preferred to be celebrated rather than mourned, so during the festival they first honored los angelitos, the deceased children, then those who passed away as adults.
Across the plaza was a group of people putting the final touches on their costumes and applying face paint, including event volunteer Tania Rojas who said she’s been part of the Dia de los Muertos event since she was in a stroller.
“I grew up around this,” Rojas said. “I’m getting a different version since I'm in the United States, but to me, it’s a lot about family and being unified, working together to remember the people that meant a lot to you in the past.”
Unlike most people in the U.S. who view death as a sorrowful and painful experience, someone such as Rojas said she likes to celebrate life through death because it’s something inevitable.
“You can't do anything about it,” Rojas said. “The best way to (deal with death) is to embrace it through celebrating how awesome someone was. It kind of motivates you to leave a mark in someone’s life.”
History of Halloween
by Ted Rudow III, MA
The true name of Halloween is “Samhain.” This was the Celtic Lord of the Dead. For 3 days from Oct 29-31, the Celtic people, along with their priestly class called Druids, would hold an ancient rite which would mark the beginning and the end of the year. A druid was a member of the priestly class in Britain, Ireland, and Gaul, and possibly other parts of Celtic western Europe, during the Iron Age. Very little is currently known about the ancient druids because they left no written accounts about themselves. The druids then also appear in some of the medieval tales from Christianised Ireland like the Táin Bó Cúailnge, where they are largely portrayed as sorcerers who opposed the coming of Christianity. Usually a week before the rites of Samhain began, the Druid had ordered the people of the Celtic tribe to disperse throughout the countryside and gather thousands of wicker reed.This is a very strong and durable stick. Wicker furniture has been made from it and most of us are familiar with it. They would then construct a giant human effigy that would stand from 30 to 50 feet, as the Wicker Man. A wicker man was a large wicker statue of a human used by the ancient Druids (priests of Celtic paganism) for human sacrifice by burning it in effigy, according to Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico. In modern times the figure has been adopted for festivals as part of some neopagan-the med ceremonies, notably without the human sacrifice element. Many cages had been built within it. Each prisoner would be tied to one of the cages.Then the Druids began their idea of fun and games.
Yet, I have seen many Christian churches throughout this nation hold Halloween Parties within the church building. Every single one of these things is directly from the celebration of Samhain. You are simply trying to turn something evil into something good!
Ted Rudow III, MA