Celebrating Dia de Muertos

October 28, 2015 - Zoe Dennington

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As October draws to a close, families in Mexico begin the process of creating elaborate altars in their homes. These are decorated with colourful papel picado (paper bunting), marigolds, and images and models of dancing skeletons.

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Day of the Dead Decorations from New Mexico

Unlike Halloween, Day of the Dead is not a spooky festival. Despite the grinning skulls and animated skeletons, its a celebration filled with light and colour. Families take the time to talk about the lives of their loved ones, and place their favourite foods on the altar. At night, candlelit processions make their way to the cemetery, where people decorate the graves of those who’ve passed away.

We’ll be celebrating Day of the Dead here at the Museum on Friday, with family activities in the afternoon and our Museums at Night late opening, complete with salsa dancing, tacos, and decoration-making workshops. We’ll have our own altar set up— why not bring along a picture of a lost loved one, or leave a message for them?

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Leaving messages on last year’s Day of the Dead Altar

In the spirit of Day of the Dead, here are some of the family memories visitors have left on the tree in our Hatched, Matched, Dispatched— and Patched! exhibition:

‘My father loved bowls playing in the Wiltshire countryside. I commemorated him with trees as part of Parton Wood. My mother loved theatre. She’s commemorated with a named seat at the Pony Vic Theatre in London. My sister is commemorated at a special school in London.’

‘Laid a wreath at Menin Gate, Ypres 9 August 2015 to remember a grandfather who died 9 August 1915 and is named there.’

‘Treasured memories of my mother and father Glyndwr (Poole) Jones and Mary Tones, née Wain. They live forever in my heart, in my children and grandchildren.’