Spanish Professor, Anne Kelly-Glasoe, has attended South Puget Sound Community College’s annual Day of the Dead celebration for 20 years while working at the college. Kelly-Glasoe encourages her students to attend the event each year.
The event celebrated the Mexican holiday and involved traditional food and art.
El Día de Los Muertos or, the Day of the Dead, has been celebrated in Mexico for hundreds of years, mixing indigenous and Spanish cultures to create this unique holiday.
This custom, though occasionally associated with Halloween, shines light on a very different perspective on death.
According to Kelly-Glasoe, people talk about what happens after death a lot, but, not a lot of time is spent just focusing on remembering those who have died.
Through the participation in The Day of the Dead, people are able to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away rather than mourn the loss. Despite its subject matter, the holiday maintains a happy and celebratory atmosphere.
“Cultures view death differently and this event addresses the subject of remembering those who have died,” Kelly-Glasoe said.
The holiday occurs on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, in correspondence with the later introduced All Saints’ Day. El Día de Los Angelitos is sometimes celebrated before as a special event to recognize children who have died.
One aspect of the celebration involves welcoming the spirits of loved ones back into a home by creating commemorating altars. These altars hold favorite foods and items, pictures and flowers, as well as other decorations.
The SPSCC event featured an altar decorated with marigolds, along with tablecloths and crafts made by students.
Kelly-Glasoe encouraged students to bring pictures of family and friends to place on the altar at SPSCC. She also brings a picture of her grandmother and brother some years.
The college held the event on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 in the Student Union Building where students decorated and designed sugar skulls which are popular throughout the Day of the Dead.
Students were able to help make the sugar skulls by mixing water, sugar and meringue powder and then pouring the mixture into skull molds to harden.
Students were given the opportunity to decorate the hardened skulls with colored icing at the annual Day of the Dead celebration.
Paul Romeijn-Stout, an SPSCC Spanish student, participated in the sugar skull festivities. To him, celebrating the Day of the Dead is important and fun. This was the first year Romeijn-Stout attended SPSCC’s annual event, but said he has celebrated it before in other Spanish classes.
Students were also invited to participate in a doll making workshop with local artists Diane Kurzyna. Kurzyna brought all sorts of reusable items such as fabric scraps, ribbon and bottle caps for students to decorate paper skeleton dolls with.
In the holiday spirit, Kurzyna encouraged students to decorate their dolls in the likeness of a passed loved one.
The examples Kurzyna made represented her knitting grandmother and her gardening friend with a small ball of yarn and a tiny silk sunflower.
This is the third year Kurzyna has participated in the event and she said that the celebration of this holiday is “nice for students to deal with grief.”
To her, the celebration is unique because it is “respectful, but with a sense of humor.”
The event provided refreshments of Mexican hot chocolate and pan de muerto, the traditional bread of the holiday.
According to Kelly-Glasoe, the event was not always funded by the school. Originally, she said, a group of humanities and social science faculty worked together to organize a small celebration that was held in the Diversity and Equity center. Kelly-Glasoe even had to make the Mexican hot chocolate for the event at her own house.
After several years, the event gained a more expansive student involvement. With their interest, the celebration earned a budget and became a larger event. Now students are very involved, especially with the various crafts.