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If you’re not from a Mexican family, the cultural traditions that surround Dia de Los Muertos may not be something you’re largely familiar with however, with the release of Disney’s animated film Coco a few year’s ago, and the privilege we have living in the Central Valley being surrounded by diverse cultures from around the world, including Mexican culture, we are easily afforded the opportunity to learn more about and celebrate the beauty of the traditions of Dia de los Muertos right here in Fresno.
Dia de los Muertos is a holiday meant to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed – not to be a somber or dark day. Some of the traditional elements of the holiday include creating an “ofrenda” (Spanish for offering) in the home in honor of the departed loved ones. Typically ofrendas are decorated with photos of the loved ones being honored, flowers (typically orange marigolds), butterflies, colorful strings of patterned paper cut into intricate patterns (“paper picado” which translates to mean perforated paper) and offerings of favorite foods or drinks of the loved ones.
When it comes to holiday foods, tamales and other Mexican specialty dishes are common as are sweet, pillow-y breads coated with a dusting of sugar and made in the shape of bones (“pan de muerto” which means bread of the dead”). Additionally, colorful, decorated sugar skulls (“calaveras” are used both as added features for ofrendas and sometimes as edible treats, created from softer sugars or chocolate.
Typically, there is a big celebration of Dia de los Muertos in the Tower District in Central Fresno, however, due to COVID-19, unfortunately that will not be occurring this year in its normal fashion. However, there are still ways to experience the beauty and reverence of this special holiday this year.
5 Ways to Celebrate and Honor the Traditions of Dia de los Muertos
- Visit Arte Américas, our local Latinx museum and cultural center for their special Dia de los Muertos Mercado Sazón (seasonal market) on Saturday, October 31st and enjoy outdoor shopping for special arts, crafts and treats and to view the community ofrenda. This event takes place from 10am-6pm, and is sure to be a fun and colorful experience. Arte Américas is located on the corner of Calaveras and Van Ness in Downtown Fresno (1630 Van Ness). Masks and social distancing are required.
- Partake in a remote class to learn how to make your own Ofrenda. Hosted by Arte Américas via Facebook live, this class will be taught at 9am Saturday morning by Cecilia Aranaydo. To join in, simply the Arte Américas Facebook page at the time of the class.
- Visit Frida Café and bring your own memento to honor a loved one and add to their community ofrenda (and enjoy a delicious handmade drink while you’re there).
- Youth can enter in @CaliYoungMinds Dia de los Muertos Calavera Contest to win a Starbucks gift card by turning themselves into/painting their face like a Calavera and uploading their photo to social media tagging @CaliYoungMinds by November 1st. For full details, visit their Instagram account.
- Order delicious, handmade, traditional tamales to-go from Fresno’s newest Downtown restaurant, The Golden Tamale, (located at 744 P. Street Suite 103) and enjoy them while watching Coco as a family.