Celebrating Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” in Elgin!

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While the weather in Chicago was pretty horrendous on Halloween, the following day was an entirely different story. In fact, it was almost sunny enough to offset the whole “Halloween is over” depression many of us horror/monster fans go through every November 1st.  The weekend, however, wasn’t over yet…

Just the week before I’d been up in Elgin, Illinois to celebrate their amazing Nightmare on Chicago Street event.  While I was there, I’d been alerted to more upcoming festivals taking place and reminded why it’s fast becoming my favorite city! One is Krampuslauf taking place in December which recreates a Northern European festival celebrating Krampus; a more sinister version of Santa Claus.

Krampus Krawl

The other was a celebration of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Elgin has a large Latino population and this made it an ideal location for getting a taste of the holiday without crossing the border; especially for someone like me who, though part Mexican, is about as out of touch with the culture as Taco Bell. Let’s just say the only Spanish I know is what I learned on Sesame Street. It’s kind of a shame because I love Mexican food and have vague memories of my Grandma Fuentes’ basement full of corn husks while her and my aunts/cousins got together to make tamales.

I arrived at the Elgin Public Museum and the event was already in full swing. Outside people were painting the faces of children (and social media savvy adults) while the bulk of activities were indoors.

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The holiday originated in Central/Southern Mexico and traces its roots back hundreds of years to an Aztec festival dedicated to one of their deities. Since the Christianization of Mexico, it has since become a national holiday recognized throughout the world and a celebration for loved ones lost.

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The Mexican culture was never one to shy away from bright colors and this was certainly evident here with the beautiful paintings, skulls, and even free cookies they had available.

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One of the most important Day of the Dead traditions is creating an altar dedicated to a deceased friend or loved one. In Mexico, some families take this practice so seriously they plan weeks in advance or even hire professionals to do the job. No matter how intricate, they’re created with loving intentions and feature a photograph of the deceased along with offerings (known as ofrenda).

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The Elgin Public Museum did an amazing job not only encouraging local believers to participate but also answering questions and introducing the customs and practices to those unfamiliar like me.

Here are some more shots…

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All in all a pretty neat experience and I’m grateful to the Elgin Public Museum for holding this event! November may have marked the end of Halloween so far as the calendar was concerned but my horror festivities were far from over. Not just for Day of the Dead the holiday, but the horror convention Days of the Dead coming this weekend!

Until then…

Dave Fuentes~

 

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