Dia de los Muertos celebrated at Augsburg


It was hard to miss the recent, vibrant Día de los Muertos offering in the Christensen Center. Día de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead” in English) is a celebration that begins each year on Nov. 1 and continues until the end of Nov. 2. It is a holiday that many Augsburg students and their families observe. Although the holiday is most commonly recognized by many in relation to its colorful decorations, those two days aren’t simply an excuse to dress up, paint faces and party.

For those of Mexican heritage, Día de los Muertos is used to commemorate loved ones who have passed away. It is believed that the souls of the deceased return to their families on earth over these two days. The first day of the celebration is dedicated specifically to the souls of dead children, and the second is dedicated to the souls of departed adults. Even though the subject of the festival seems sad, remembering the dead is actually a lively, happy event.

In Mexico, the entire month of October is spent preparing for this two-day event. The markets are bursting with people buying fruits, nuts, skull decorations and alcohol to display as an offering for their deceased family members. Families buy special pan de muerto (bread of the dead). They prepare the favorite meals of their deceased loved ones. The most common dish is mole, a sauce made out of a variety of peppers, chocolate and nuts. The sauce is accompanied by chicken, rice and beans. These displays, also referred to as “La Ofrenda” which means “The Offering,” filled with food and ornaments, are also decorated with candles, images of saints and photos of the dead. Marigold flowers are a popular decoration, for the scent of the flower is said to help guide loved ones to the land of the living. On the evenings of both days, cemeteries are full of families celebrating the lives of those they loved.

The festival is celebrated most heavily in Mexico due to its beginning roots from tribes like the Aztecs and the Mayans. However, it is celebrated throughout other parts of Latin America and, as we can see, here in the United States.

Día de los Muertos is a festival that is close to my heart, so I imagine it’s something many students at Augsburg feel strongly about. During the Halloween season, it is hard being away from family. I feel sad knowing that I will miss out on setting up La Ofrenda or paying respects to the souls of my loved ones. Finding out Augsburg students displayed their own La Ofrenda and organized a dance and celebrated with face paintings helped. It made me feel warm and welcomed.

*Featured photo by Jim Pfeffer.

This article first appeared in the Friday, November 10, 2017, Edition of The Echo.