Celebrating the Day of the Dead in Canada
What is Dia de los Muertos?
For those outside of Mexico, it would seem that the Day of the Dead has become an integral part of pop culture during the month of October. Many people in Canada and the United States may already be familiar with the holiday having seen recent films such as Coco and the Book of Life. But what exactly is the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos?
While Day of the Dead festivities occur throughout the month of October, the actual holiday takes place on November 1 and 2. With Aztec origins and Catholic influences, November 1 marks All Saint’s Day, where the spirits of deceased children are reunited with living family members, and November 2 marks All Soul’s Day, where the departed adults come back to the land of the living.
Although it may seem like a time for sadness, it is actually a time of joy and remembrance. In memory of those departed, altars are made, with the ofrendas being filled with favorite foods, drinks, toys, pictures, and anything else that brought joy to those now gone. Music from somber guitars and lively mariachis can be heard as stories are shared amongst friends and family. The figure of La Catrina has become an emblem of the holiday, representing the inevitability of death. Marigolds and hanging papel de muerto are also a common sight as they are believed to guide souls to their altars and waiting friends and family. These altars are often filled with velas or candles. Food also plays a big part in celebrations. This is done to help nourish the spirits on their journeys back home for the night. Sugar skulls and pan de muerto are just some of the sweet foods to be enjoyed.
Q&A with the President of Casa Mexico
Why do you think it's important that we celebrate Dia de los Muertos here in Calgary and across Canada?
Dia de Muertos is becoming more known for more people here in Canada and all over the world. For us, it is very important that more Canadians learn more about the meaning of this beautiful Mexican tradition and celebrate together honouring those that are not here with us anymore.
What do you hope that visitors to this year’s festivities take away from the event?
We expect a full house at Arts Commons to celebrate this important festivity. Visitors to the event will have the opportunity of learning about the components of an altar, and maybe they can learn how to make your own altar at home. We will have some workshops where you can create your own flowers for your altar for example. We will have musical presentations and traditional bread of the dead and hot chocolate. People can participate in the contest to find the Best Catrina in Town. It will be a fashion style show where the best Catrin or Catrina personification will be awarded. We are sure that it will be a day full of fun and surprises.
Do you have any Dia de los Muertos traditions that you celebrate every year?
We put an altar at home with the pictures of our loved ones. We put in the altar some food items and beverages that the deceased used to like when alive.
What are some other ways that Canadians can learn more about Latin American culture throughout the year?
There are different festivals and activities that are happening in the city all the time. We hosted in September and October the Latin American Arts and Culture Festival for example.
Where can people learn more about Casa Mexico?
Celebrating Day of the Dead in Canada
Jaclyn was able to attend the Day of the Dead festivities held by Casa Mexico, and enjoyed pan de muerto, live mariachi music, a La Catrina costume contest, and delicious tacos from local food trucks.