The Mexican tradition of celebrating past lives is coming to life at the Shatford Centre in Penticton.
The Day of the Dead is an annual event in Mexico that lasts for three days in the autumn.
The event uses symbols of skulls, skeletons and the dead, and while the event is traditionally celebrated around Halloween and makes use of similar symbols, the two occasions are not associated with one another.
“That’s the main point we want to make — it’s a Mexican tradition,” said co-organizer Ana Ooman, who was born in Mexico.
“We remember our loved ones who have passed away in a happily and lovingly way. When we talk about it in a country like Canada people can think it’s scary or gruesome but there’s nothing further from the truth. It’s happy how we remember our loved ones that have passed away.”
Ooman said the Day of the Dead has been practiced for as long as 3,000 years.
“It’s to celebrate both recent passings or acceptors from a long time ago. It’s a very beautiful,” she said, adding that she’ll be taking the memory of her grandparents with her to the local celebration.
Many traditional preparations are followed during Day of the Dead celebrations, but for its inaugural year in Penticton, Ooman is inviting the public just to simply attend – regardless of cultural background.
“It’s a very, very old tradition – people become very interested in it once they get to know it.”
Unlike a funeral, there’s a strong emphasis on creating a party atmosphere for Day of the Dead.
“It’s a big thing with many different layers. There’s special food for that day, and special bread called bread for the dead (muertos). It’s very sugary bread,” said co-organizer Noberto Rodriguez, who is also a Mexican immigrant.
“Food, flowers, decorations, alcohol, music – so then it’s a party,” he said.
To traditionally commemorate those who have passed, families or communities often build altars which symbolize the importance of the people being remembered. The altars are normally decorated with skulls made from sugar, marigold flowers, the diseased’s treasured artifacts and favourite consumables. It’s also common for families to visit the gravesides of those being celebrated.
“It’s a belief that the spirits come from your loved ones to be with the family to comfort them and share with them,” Ooman said.
The celebration in Penticton is scheduled for Oct. 31 from 1 to 4 p.m. and there’s no admission charge.
There will be free face painting on site from Camille Glenn, and kids will be shown how to make sugar skulls from scratch.
“Every year we’ll do the same, and every year hopefully we do better and better,” Rodriguez said.