Tuesday, November 8, 2011 10:20 AM
Anyone worshiping in or visiting Oxnam Chapel during late October may have been greeted with an unfamiliar site. An altar was placed in the chapel narthex in honor of “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) – a traditional Mexican holiday observed as a way to remember loved ones who have passed away in the past year.
Dia de los Muertos is a holiday or festival that seeks to honor and remember the dead, not with somber sadness, but in joyful celebration of life as well as death – reflecting on the idea that death is part of the journey of life. Dia de los Muertos is typically celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November, coinciding with All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd), the holidays officially observed by the Catholic Church.
Following the conventions of this holiday, the altar is adorned with ofrendas of photos and memorabilia of the beloved deceased, as well as traditional decorations such as brightly colored calaveras (‘friendly’ skeletons), candles, masks, papel picado (tissue or other lightweight paper cut out in elaborate design), and gifts of flowers and food for the dead.
Amy Gray, the program administrator for Wesley’s Luce Center for Arts and Religion explains that the idea behind reading the name and bringing the ofrendas are one in the same: to “love and remember people who have passed. To say the names is one thing, but to have a physical object or to do something tangible – that gesture is very human.”
In recognition of all of these holy days, the chapel service at Wesley on Tuesday, November 1st included a reading of names of the saints and souls dear to the Wesley community who have passed away over the last year. Wesley community members were invited to send the names of their loved ones to the worship planners, and were also invited to bring objects of remembrance of these persons to place on the altar.
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