Park City High School students and their families are invited to experience the Mexican cultural tradition of “Day of the Dead” (Día de los Muertos) on Nov. 2 from 7-9 p.m. at the high school.
There will be a presentation explaining the ‘offering altar’ made by students, a traditional folk dance, music, face painting, a piñata, and traditional food (tamales; pan de muertos, a special sweet bread; hot chocolate; and atole, a cornmeal based drink). There will also be a “best tamales” contest.
“Support multiculturalism and community in Park City,” said Dirk Gootjes, Latino Outreach, who oversees Latino Outreach at the high school.
Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by Oct. 27, by emailing Gootjes at firstname.lastname@example.org. The event is free but RSVPs are crucial so the school knows how much food is needed. Parents or families wanting to donate money or food for the evening should contact Gootjes.
“It is common that there can be misinformation and misunderstanding about traditions that are not our own and Day of the Dead is no exception,” he said.
Gootjes, who lived in Mexico for 10 years and is well versed in Mexican folk traditions, dispels two myths concerning Day of the Dead:
MYTH: Day of the Dead is a religious holiday.
FACT: Although it is celebrated on the same day as a Catholic holiday (All Soul’s Day), it is not an official Catholic holiday such as Christmas or Easter. In fact, the roots of Day of the Dead are pre-Colombian, and many of the symbols and practices are derived from the indigenous groups of Meso America (Maya and Aztec, e.g.). In general, people celebrate in their homes and schools in Mexico, creating altars (called ofrendas in Spanish) that display portraits, favorite foods, and special possessions of their loved ones who have passed. So, Day of the Dead is much like our Halloween (Gaelic festival called Samhain marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset) in that it is a beloved secular, cultural tradition with its roots in ancient ritual.
MYTH: Day of the Dead is morbid and depressing because of the skeletons, skulls, and obsession with death.
FACT: Day of the Dead is not a sad or scary occasion, but a spirited secular holiday when people remember and honor family members who have died. All of this is part of the philosophy that death is not something to be feared, but a natural part of life. Families also visit the graves of their loved ones, cleaning the headstones, decorating with flowers, and bringing food and music.
PCHS students/families wanting to make an individual offering altar for a family member or those who want to contribute to the large general offering altar on display, should contact Gootjes.