Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day of the Dead Altar

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{¸.*´ (¸.*`¤~Day of the Dead, also called "Dia de los Muertos," is a holiday which is celebrated in Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, and other areas in Central and South America populated with a Latino ethnic background. The Day of the Dead is also celebrated in areas of the United States such as California, Texas and many other areas, in which the Mexican-American heritage exists. This is an important social ritual that Latino people see as "a way of recognizing the cycle of life and death that is human existence".

Although this celebration is associated with the dead, it is not portrayed as a morbid or depressing time, but rather a period full of life, happiness, color, food, family, and fun. The main symbols of this holiday are skulls and skeletons.

People celebrate this holiday in their households, as well as in the cemeteries. In their homes, between Oct. 31st and Nov. 2nd, a time called "Todos Santos", offerings of food and drink are prepared for the dead. "Ofrendas" (offerings) are often set up in the home on an altar displaying portraits, personal goods, clothing, favorite foods, and possessions of the deceased family member.

This holiday is believed to "welcome the souls of the dead." The souls are said to return each year to enjoy the pleasures that they once had in life. They are thought to return to be with their living relatives for a few brief hours each year in this world, but come as spirits who have returned from another world.

November 2nd is the official date for Day of the Dead, although it is celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd. These dates correspond with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. This correspondence results from the Catholic Church's efforts to "find similarities between the indigenous and Christian beliefs." This celebration has a complex history that has been transformed through the years. This is my interpretation of a Day of the Dead altar. It was an installation piece within my recent gallery exhibition at the Waldron Art Center in Bloomington this past fall.

I dedicate it to my Mother who died in 1975.

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