Bright flowers, loud music, colorful grave decorations, and seasonal sweets are characteristics of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
The two-day celebration occurs every year, Nov. 1-2. Day one is for the departed children, and day two is for the adults
Celebrations are held in Stephenville, although it is not a publicized event.
Stephenville High School Spanish teacher Donnie Bryant said the department has created a cultural unit for the Spanish II classes. A documentary film of the occasion is shown in Spanish III.
“It coincides with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day,” Bryant said. “It is not an eerie event, but a happy occasion. It is a litany of the dead.”
Dia de los Muertos is extensively celebrated in Mexico. The event is also observed in the United States in larger cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Dallas. Tuscon's 2005 parade had over 7,000 participants.
The tradition combines native Aztec and Roman Catholic practices and beliefs. Today, people don wooden skull masks and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are placed on candlelit altars dedicated to those who have passed from this earth. Brilliantly colored flowers frame headstones. Sugar skulls are created with the names of the deceased.
Even though it coincides with the United States' Halloween, it is not the same. Part of the celebration is to visit graves the day before for cleaning and decoration. In homes, scents of incense fills the rooms and the loved one's favorite music is played. Both adult and children's costumes are finalized for the two-day celebration.
Baking special bread is another custom. Pan de Muerto is made with flour, butter, sugar, eggs, orange peel, anise, and yeast. The loaves are decorated with strips of dough symbolizing bones and topped by a small round piece to signify a teardrop. There are also candied pumpkin treats and Atole, a hot beverage.
Dia de los Muertos is a sacred and serious matter, but also a festival in a consecrated place.
(See inside for recipe of bread.)
SHERRY BOARDMAN is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-965-3124, ext. 229.