The Day of the Dead or Día de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated not only in Mexico, but also throughout several other countries in South and Central America.
The holiday is associated with the Catholic celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. This year, Mercyhurst celebrated with campus-wide events on those dates.
The multi-day celebration has many traditions which take place to honor friends and family members who have passed away. However, this event is not sad or depressing, but rather it is fun and upbeat because celebrants are remembering the legacy of a loved one and the life that person lived.
One of the most popular traditions is the alter (ofrenda). The alter is a place where people place pictures, possessions, candles, flowers and even toys in memory of those have passed as a way to acknowledge their lives.
A lot of the time there is plenty of food and drinks for the deceased loved ones to eat. Another popular tradition is candy skulls. The skulls represent the departed souls and they are often decorated to remember each individual person.
They are very detailed and colorful to remind families of the happiness that this soul would bring to others. These have become popularized and are commonly associated with the holiday and its decorations.
There are also festivals where people in attendance can put on makeup that looks like a skeleton.
The women wear big dresses and dance in groups to celebrate the lives of the people who are not with them anymore.
Mercyhurst University had plenty of opportunities for students and faculty to celebrate over the weekend. There was an ofrenda in Prince of Peace Chapel from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 where anybody could bring a photo of a loved one who has passed, write a note to them or even just come by to pray and reflect. A more upbeat celebration occurred on Nov. 2 where students had the opportunity to go down to the Roost and watch the popular movie, “Coco” and try some Mexican hot chocolate, while learning about Día de Los Muertos traditions.
On Nov. 3, Fr. Piszker offered an ofrenda ceremony to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost in the Mercyhurst community. Over the four days, those who went to Prince of Peace Chapel had the opportunity to help assemble a wishing tree which was then prayed over by those who attended the event. The wishing tree was located in the Prince of Peace Chapel.
Students could hang a note, prayer, poem or a blessing on the tree addressed to a person who has passed away. The wishing tree symbolizes the tree of life and the fact that life is eternal even if we pass from this world.
Students do not have to add something to the tree if they do not want to, but it is highly encouraged.
Overall, the week served as a reminder of how special life is and how it ought to be celebrated, now and in the coming winter months.