Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Celebrating and Remembering

This past Friday my friend, Penny McElroy,  and I hosted a Dia de Los Muertos party at my home.  In 2008 we had traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico with four other friends to experience the holiday. Since that time I've wanted to expand on my own personal celebration with a bigger, community based expression.  I asked Penny if she'd like to co-host the event with me and she thought it would be fun. Penny teaches at the University of Redlands and chairs the art department. She designed a fun invitation.

Carl and I renovated our back yard last year and I was waiting for the right time to hold our first party.  So Penny and I got to work. We created a large U-shaped altar outside with three tables and covered them with a variety of embroidered textiles and colorful papel picado.  We also built an arch which we embellished with hundreds of paper marigolds.  To the tables we added candles, fresh fruit, bread, a pitcher of water and our personal ofrendas (offerings) to friends and family no longer with us.  I hung a drawing of calavera cyclists by my uncle, Charles Richard Bjorkman, inspired by the Mexican artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada. Uncle Dick is no longer with us but he held a prominent spot on our altar.

I lined the steps up to the house with luminarias- paper bags filled with sand and candles. I loved the way they looked as the sun went down.

We asked the guests to bring items to add to the altar, as well. While many friends were familiar with the holiday, we learned that many of them were not and had spent a good amount of time researching its symbolism and meaning.  One couple researched the traditional bread, Pan de Muerto, and baked several loaves.

Penny compiled an incredible playlist of traditional Mexican music which really enhanced the experience.  Many people mentioned how much they enjoyed the music and a few danced!

I ordered the food from our local Ranch Market which serves the Hispanic community. They prepared three kinds of tamales, two kinds of savory empanadas, and two kinds of sweet empanadas. Later in the evening, we roasted marshmallows over the fire pit.

It's always fun to realize one's dream...and this year, celebrating El Dia de Los Muertos, was just that.  From idea to reality.

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