Dia De Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd which pays tribute to and honors the deceased. The origins of the holiday can be traced back thousands of years, where rituals celebrating dead ancestors have been present in the country in various forms during this time. Traditionally, people pay their respects and remember the dead by building an altar and decorating it with pictures of those who have passed, flowers, sugar skulls, candles and food.
For the second year in a row, without knowing it was occurring, I walked by the Dia De Muertos celebration at the St. Mark's Church in the Bowery in New York City's East Village neighborhood, and enjoyed some of the weekend's festivities. The event included a number of vendors that were selling traditional goods which included Mexican folk art and sugar skulls. There was also Mexican food being served and music from an authentic mariachi band to close out the festivities.
The altar displayed a note that explained the offering was being dedicated to all the deceased, but especially those that passed in the recent earthquakes in Mexico, where close to five hundred people were killed. One of the things that I noticed both this year and last, is the communal aspect of the celebration. Despite the somewhat morbid subject matter, the mood was one of joy, with both children and adults partaking in the celebration. And unlike the most synonymous holiday celebrated here in the U.S., where, not shockingly, there is a far more materialistic feel that revolves around collecting the most candy, the communal, family oriented, aspect of Dia De Muertos seems to be the focus here, with the treats and skulls being secondary.