Across the globe, Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time of observance and remembrance of lost loved ones. This evening in San Francisco, the Marigold Project presents its annual Festival of Altars that culminates in a procession of community members and skull-faced participants through the Mission to a site of elaborately constructed alters made to commemorate the dead. Whether you’re planning a quiet gathering of personal reflection or boldly welcoming “a new era, an era of enlightenment, and blossoming, as a stronger global consciousness and collective evolution” through a public parade, the Day of the Dead is really all about celebrating the cycle of life. This colorful festival is the Pinspiration for our board, Dia de los Muertos:
Skulls, skulls, and more skulls: The most commonly recognized symbol of the Day of the Dead, skulls traditionally symbolize death and rebirth in Mexico. Day of the Dead skulls are unique to this festival: multi-colored and intricately decorated with flowery swirls and other icons like crosses, teardrops, and hearts. Many participants paint their faces a stark white and mimic those complex designs, or offer tiny sugar skulls at altars to welcome their ancestors’ souls.
Cut-out decor: “Papel picado,” or cut-out banners are traditional altar adornments on the Day of the Dead. These bright-colored banners depict skeletons in scenes that vary from soberingly reverent (like praying over a grave site) to playfully absurd (like riding a penny-farthing bicycle). Like a gateway peaking between this life and the next, the cut-out pattern can be repeated in ceramic lanterns, metal-woven vases, and in cast iron trivets that can act as the resting place for home-cooked food offerings.
Technicolor: Since the marigold is customarily referred to as “the flower of the dead,” orange is often associated with Dia de los Muertos. But since color indicates the presence of life, altars at the festival are adorned in technicolor. Candles glow all the colors of the rainbow, burning against neon backdrops crafted with care.
How do you celebrate the Day of the Dead? Tell us in the comments section below!