Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween and Day of the Dead

Dr. Rhonda Knight sent me a link to an interesting way to celebrate Halloween - All Hallow's Read.  It's easy, too - just give a friend a scary book during the week before or the day of Halloween.  Author Neil Gaiman explains further:

Don't forget your library - even recommending a scary book still counts for All Hallow's Read!

Coming up on November 2, Coker College Culture Club (CCCC) will celebrate the Day of the Dead.  From Dr. Mac Williams, faculty liaison to CCCC:
We'll have it in the Davidson Hall Courtyard/Front Porch area. It is free and the entire Hartsville community is invited, so please feel free to invite friends, neighbors, and family.
The Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that chooses to remember the dead with bright colors, songs, dancing, food, candles, and "altares" or altars decorated with scenes from the person's life. This celebration of the deceased's life is a major holiday in many parts of Mexico and border areas with the United States (e.g. San Diego, California and Corpus Christi, Texas), and CCCC thinks it's a fun and educational way to learn about the culture of our southern neighbor while also offering a bit of healthy remembrance of those we love who are no longer with us.
CCCC invites all of you to come and enjoy FREE chorizo tacos, snacks, and Mexican Cokes in glass bottles. We will also have sugar skull decorating, pan de los muertos (bread of the dead), and a display of several altars made by faculty and students.
Please feel free to make and bring your own altar, or simply bring a photo or memento of a deceased loved one, friend, or even a celebrity, and light a candle to their memory during this festive but low-key observance. While CCCC focuses more on the secular side of the holiday, the atmosphere will be one where a private quiet prayer offered will not be disturbed by loud music.
I will be there to answer questions as best I can, and CCCC has invited our local Mexican community to participate.

Finally, from our great art and humanities database ARTstor, comes a blog post that explains some of the history behind both holidays, and how different cultures celebrate Halloween and Día de Los Muertos.  From ARTstor's Giovanni Garcia-Fenech:
Halloween stems from the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain (roughly, “summer’s end”) held on October 31–November 1, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. The festival was integrated into All Saints Day, a Catholic holiday observed on November 1 to honor saints and martyrs. The evening before All Saints Day was referred to as All Hallows’ Eve, which eventually became Halloween.
In countries with Roman Catholic heritage, All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 2) have long been holidays in which people commemorate the departed. The tradition in my native Mexico is known as Día de los Muertos, “Day of the Dead,” and celebrations take place on the first two days of November, when family and friends gather to remember loved ones who have died. Similar to the evolution of Halloween, the celebration conflates the Catholic holidays with an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl, the “Lady of the Dead.” I have fond memories of visiting the cemetery with my family to clean my grandfather’s grave and play with the children of other visiting families. People in Mexico often build altars using brightly decorated sugar skulls, marigolds (popularly known as Flor de Muerto, “Flower of the Dead”), and the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. I was particularly fond of the sugar skulls; I always tried to bite into them, but they tend to be so hard that I would have to ask my father to break mine with a hammer.
Many Latin American countries hold similar celebrations, with some colorful regional differences:  In Ecuador, the Day of the Dead is observed with ceremonial foods such as colada morada, a spiced fruit porridge, and guagua de pan, a bread shaped like a swaddled infant; in addition to the traditional visits to their ancestors’ gravesites, Guatemalans build and fly giant kites; and in Brazil, Dia de Finados (“Day of the Dead”) is celebrated on November 2.
The blog post also describes some Halloween/Day of the Dead "friendly" collections inside of ARTstor.

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