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Carleton Commemorates Day of the Dead

October 29, 2011
By Alex Korsunsky '12

Carleton College’s annual commemoration of the traditional Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) will take place on Wed., Nov. 2 at 4:30 p.m. in the Severance Great Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

Dia de los Muertos is a traditional Latin American holiday in which the living commemorate the memories of their dead ancestors. Although occurring at the same time of year as Halloween and sharing a common imagery of death – Dia de los Muertos decorations and foods prominently feature skull and skeleton motifs – this holiday does not consider the dead to be morbid or frightening; rather, they are objects of affection and even humor. Families visit the graves of loved ones, share meals, and build altars in their homes to their memory.

Carleton’s Dia de los Muertos celebration will incorporate an explanation of the meaning of the holiday as celebrated in Mexico, performances of stories by students, Aztec dancing, and dinner. Attendees will witness decoration of an altar with traditional offerings such as sugar skulls, flowers, and candles, and will have the opportunity to remember their own loved ones who have passed on by placing photos and mementos on the altar.

The Day of the Dead is the historical child of the coming together of 16th century Spanish Catholic traditions with the native religions of the Americas. In many regions of the Americas – notably in Mexico – the native peoples saw death very differently than Europeans, understanding it not as an end but rather as a metaphoric “planting” of a body in the earth as a necessary prelude to rebirth and renewed life and fertility. These indigenous beliefs help to explain the celebratory mood of the Dia de los Muertos which might otherwise seem puzzling to a new observer.

This event is sponsored by the Carleton College Chaplain’s Office in collaboration with the Latin American Student Organization, the Office of Intercultural Life, and the Spanish Department. For further information and disability accommodations, call (507) 222-4003 or contact The Great Hall is located in Severance Hall, which is located off of College Street on the Carleton campus.