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A Celebration with Soul(s)
Vandal students celebrate Dia de los Muertos
The Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration is a traditional Mexican holiday that takes place on November 1-2, and the University of Idaho is encouraging students and community members to celebrate the event next month in the SUB (Student Union Building) Ballroom.
This holiday dates back several centuries and is traditionally celebrated over a span of several days in Mexico, when Mexicans from various faiths and cultural backgrounds honor their ancestors and deceased loved ones. For centuries, indigenous people believed that souls did not die, but continued to live in Mictlán, a special resting place. In Mictlán, it was believed that the spirits rested until the day they were allowed to return to their homes to visit their relatives. To welcome those who had died, families would build altars in dedication.
Now there are two celebrations to honor the memories of loved ones. On November 1, the souls of children are honored with special designs in the altars, such as using white flowers and candles. On November 2, the souls of adults are remembered with varying rituals, depending on individual states of the Mexican republic.
To celebrate at the University of Idaho, an alter-building competition will be held for students or community members. Making a Day of the Dead altar is a way for people to honor the life of someone who was important to them, or to remember their ancestors. There will also be a Calaveras contest. Calaveras (Spanish for “skull”) are short poems that are festive and satirical, often written in the form of an epigram and used to criticize well-known individuals. The poems often describes how the person died and what his or her afterlife would be like, but can also be used to describe political or social events.
Students will have the opportunity to create group or individual altars, and write Calaveras to celebrate. Last year was the first year that the whole community got involved, and there were at least 30 altars according to Modern Languages and Cultures Department Chair Irina Kappler-Crookston.
“We’ve mostly had 300-level Spanish classes participate, but this year it’s expanding to French classes, some non-Latino Fraternities, and we might even have some non-Latino sororities come in,” said Kappler-Crookston. “It would be cool if in the future we could include some international students and get them involved.”
She mentioned that as the culture of the United States continues to change, and there are more people celebrating the Dia de los Muertos holiday. The goal of the celebration at the University is to create a community-wide event and bring all cultures together to celebrate one tradition.
“We have a strong presence of our Latino community [at Idaho], and it’s wonderful to see people outside that community celebrate together,” she said.
The altars will be displayed for viewing in the SUB Ballroom on November 1 from 5-7 p.m. There will also be a Cena de Dia de los Muertos, a dinner at St. Augustine’s Dining Hall directly across from the SUB that is sponsored by the Multicultural Greek Council at $7 a plate.
Other activities will follow in the SUB Ballroom, such as presentations and dancing to educate the community about the Mexican tradition, and to celebrate those represented by the altars. Prizes will be awarded to the best altars and Calaveras on display, and the Dia de los Muertos Dance will go until 11 p.m.