The Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated in central and southern Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2. The day is viewed as being similar to Halloween, which is celebrated on Oct. 31 in several countries, and has roots in pagan celebrations for the end of the harvest season and the Celtic Samhain festivities.
It coincides with the Catholic holiday known as All Souls Day due to the indigenous people combining their own beliefs of honoring ancestors with the Catholic customs brought by the conquistadors.
According to Mexican tradition, on Nov. 1st, the gates of heaven open at midnight, and the spirits of deceased children are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On Nov. 2, the souls of adults return to the world of the living to enjoy the festivities that are set up for them.
In most villages, altars are made in each home, decorated with candles, flowers, tequila or mezcal, sugar skulls called calaveras, fruit, nuts, mole, tortillas and Day of the Dead breads called pan de muerto. The altars are decorated with the favorites of the ancestors due to the belief that happy spirits provide protection and good luck.
On Nov. 2, the celebrations are taken to the cemeteries, where families clean the tombs, play cards and reminisce.
This year, the foreign languages wing hosted an altar in honor of the late Dr. Eliza Ghil, who passed away recently. The altar had many items that she loved, including an Italian opera CD, a bottle of Chianti and French candies.
Dia de los Muertos has been celebrated for several years on campus. “LASA, Latin American Student Association, together with CBEC, College of Business Executive Council, and Diversity Affairs, started this event a couple of years ago to participate in UNO’s Diversity Celebration,” wrote Ms. Peggy Gaffney, Director of Diversity Affairs, in an email to Driftwood.
“LASA is not active this semester, so this Day of the Dead event was undertaken by CBEC and the Diversity Engagement Center,” continued Gaffney.
According to Gaffney, about 100-120 people attended the event.
If students are interested, they should contact the Diversity Engagement Center in UC 201B.