Although death may seem like an unlikely thing to celebrate, that’s exactly what the Day of the Dead festivities at the Roundhouse on November 1 will do. While memento mori (remember that you are mortal) was a staple of western religious thought throughout the centuries, it seemingly disappeared sometime around the 1960s, when death became an idea non grata, a very unwelcome thought. In a culture devoted to eat, drink, and be merry, the “for tomorrow you will die” part often gets forgotten.
An important part of the Day of the Dead celebration entails creating elaborate altars, ofrendas, to encourage the dead to return home.
In contrast, the Mexican and Latin American Day of the Dead holiday celebrates family and friends who have entered that uncharted territory. In Mexico, this vibrant, colourful celebration takes place on November 1 and 2, and cemetery visits, private altars, and special foods are all part of the festivities.
Superficially similar to our custom of Halloween, the Día de los Muertos celebrates the dead rather than fears them. Originally an Aztec summer celebration presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead, after the Spanish conquest when Catholicism became the dominant religion, the Day of the Dead became linked with the Christian All Saints’ Day on Nov 1.
An important part of the Day of the Dead celebration entails creating elaborate altars, ofrendas, to encourage the dead to return home. These altars contain favourite foods, photos, and other memorabilia, as well as pan de muerto (bread of the dead), candles, toys for children, and sugar skulls. Because they are thought to attract the souls of the dead to the offerings, orange marigold flowers are also often included. Traditionally, family and friends of the deceased spend time around the altar, telling stories and praying for the departed.
Join the Roundhouse Friday November 1 in a family-friendly event to discover the history and traditions of the Día de los Muertos. Visit our Community Altar, where the memory of your own ancestors and departed friends can be honoured. Enjoy a slice of sweet pan de muerto, sip a cup of authentic Mexican hot chocolate, and savour the atmosphere of this celebration of life and death. Chef Rossana Ascencio @MiMetate will give a special presentation at 6 pm about the important role of food in this celebration at 6 pm. Registration required.
By Lisa MacLean, Roundhouse Blog Team. Lisa is a Vancouver artist and educator who teaches at local universities. When not in the studio or classroom, she enjoys cycling and inline skating around Vancouver and yoga at the Roundhouse. She loves the Roundhouse community and is delighted to share her enthusiasm as a member of the Blog Team. Visit Lisa’s website to see her work.