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Day of the Dead celebrates life with several events in OKC

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Religious beliefs in Mexico embrace the idea that death is a natural force, a part of life. A Latin American custom that meshes Aztec ritual with Catholicism, the Day of the Dead — Día de los Muertos — is a combination of Halloween, All Souls’ Day, and All Saints’ Day, celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 to pay respect to those who have died.

The dead are believed to have permission to visit friends and relatives on earth once a year, during the Day of the Dead. Not a gloomy celebration, it’s rather joyous and happy, with all family members present. Beginning on Saturday and ending Sunday, families gather at cemeteries and place favorite foods and drinks on the graves of deceased family members. Songs are sung and prayers are said, and the family cleans up around the graves. At the cemetery, families hold night vigils and are serenaded with folk songs and sometimes fortified with shots of tequila.

Also at the cemetery, marigolds are placed on the family graves. The orange color of marigolds, cempasúchil, also called the flor de muertos, or “flower of the dead,” is believed to lead the deceased souls to their homes.

Pictures of the deceased and favorite foods are often included on personalized home altars.

Death for sale

Folk.Life, 4411 N. Western Ave., is a one-stop shop for Día de los Muertos altars and ceremonial items. Replete with all things Mexican, Folk.Life sells Día de los Muertos figurines; skeleton earrings and jewelry; traditional sugar skulls (calaveras de azúcar); papel picado (strung paper banners); and altar incense, which guides the spirits to the ofrendas, or food offerings. You can also buy tumblers depicting festive skeleton designs for serving festive drinks while entertaining.

Traditional Día de los Muertos artwork and engraving originated from the Mexican engraver José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913).

“He created many skeletal artwork pieces, culminating with the grande dame of the Día de los Muertos world, the Victorian lady, La Catrina and her signature large, fancy hat,” said Folk.Life owner Shelly States. “Dead souls aren’t visibly seen, but their family presence is felt.”

Ominous eats

Casa de los Milagros Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, 5111 N. Classen Blvd., is one place to celebrate Día de los Muertos.

“From Halloween night, through Día de los Muertos, Casa de los Milagros will be featuring traditional Mexican hot chocolate and leavened bread, pan de muerto,” said restaurant manager Julian Gonzalez.

The bread, shaped like a skull and crossbones, has sugar sprinkled over it. People can also create and bring their own small altars to Casa de los Milagros.

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Drink it in

Need artistic ideas for crafts and traditional dress? The small “library” next to the bar contains books with the information you need. Grab a margarita and a Día de los Muertos craft book, sit at the bar and craft your altar and traditional dress ideas ahead of time.

More celebrations

1. Holiday celebrations will also be held at Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads and the University of Oklahoma in honor of Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

The Second Annual Fall Festival at Plaza Mayor Friday through Sunday at 7000 Crossroads Blvd. will combine Halloween traditions from the United States and Día de los Muertos from Latin American countries in celebration of both holidays. The three-day festival will begin with a trick-or-treat event on Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. that will feature tenants of Plaza Mayor passing out candy, as well as a costume contest at 7:30 p.m. on the center stage.

Various age groups will make up categories for the contest with a $100 cash prize going to the winner of each.

The Saturday celebration at Plaza Mayor will focus mostly on the students of Oklahoma City Public Schools and will feature a reception for artists participating in the student art gallery, which will be open to the public all weekend.

There will be student performances on the center stage all day, and the event will also feature arts and crafts, face-painting and traditional skull decorating activities from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The last day of the festival will feature artists performing throughout the day.

2. The OU Hispanic American Student Association will host its version of Day of the Dead from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday at the Walker Adams Mall, 300 W. Third St., on the OU campus.

Admission to the festival is free for all ages, but some activities, like traditional skull face painting, will require a small fee. Participants are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes or other traditional Day of the Dead costumes.

All proceeds from the event will support scholarships for the Association of Latino Alumni and Friends.

Print Headline: Bring out your dead, The Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos, is alive and well and celebrated in the Oklahoma City metro area.

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