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BC's Students Celebrate Dia de los Muertos

Most would assume that a holiday celebrating deceased ancestors and children would be a somber one. In the case of Dia de los Muertos, however, the mood is vastly different.

Photos, letters, and food were left behind at the Dia de los Muertos altar.

Celebrated during the first two days of November, or in Berea College's case, Oct. 30 through Nov. 4, the Day of the Dead is a time for families to remember their dead loved ones, and to reflect on the continuity of life. It is mainly a Hispanic holiday, but is celebrated differently by region. Rather than being a morbid and sad occasion, it is more of a festive event.

Berea students are participating in the building of an altar, commemorating lost lives of friends and family. Photos of family and friends as well as messages have been pinned to a colorful blanket hanging on the wall. The messages and pictures are surrounded by traditional Dia de los Muertos items, including iconic candles, rosaries, fruit and bread and festive flowers. Students have also been invited to leave behind items that their loved one would have appreciated in life. A journal has also been left for students in which to write their thoughts about those who have passed on.

Traditionally, activities during the celebration of Dia de los Muertos include welcoming the spirits of the dead back into the home and honoring the graves of their ancestors. During their time at the cemetery, family members clean up the grave site and adorn it with flowers. Many times they will often picnic at the site, as well as socialize with surrounding families. Meals are very rich and sweet--and many celebrants create sugar treats molded into the traditional skull shape. They tell stories of the departed to help them to remember their loved one, and believe that the souls of the dead return to earth and are present all around them.

Back at the home, it is tradition to decorate an altar devoted to the deceased. The altar is usually decorated with large, bright flowers, jewelry, food that was well liked by the departed as well as objects that were held valuable to them in life.

Berea’s Dia de los Muertos altar is on display in the Students' Organization Lounge in Alumni Building until Nov. 4. It is sponsored by CELTS, the International Center, the Foreign Language Department, the Hispanic Student Association and the Campus Christian Center.

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