Bibi’s Restaurant, located in the Riverwalk Plaza in Milford, is owned by natives of Mexico. As a result, the restaurant established an altar to celebrate the Hispanic holiday, el Dia de Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead or All Souls Day. It is a day of celebration, unlike the American tradition of Halloween or a time to be mournful. On November 1 and 2, the culture takes the time to celebrate those who have passed on before them in a wide variety of ways.
“It is a time for us to remember our loved ones who are gone,” Danny Perez, owner of Riverlights Café, who is also of Hispanic heritage. “It isn’t a sad day. Instead, we visit the graves of our loved ones and celebrate their lives.”
Graciela Guavluve, owner of Bibi’s Restaurant, explained that some Hispanic cultures celebrate on October 31 while others celebrate November 6, depending on the locality.
“It is widely observed in Mexico where it largely developed,” Guavluve said. “It is also celebrated in other places, especially where there are a number of people of Hispanic heritage. Although it is related to Christian remembrances for Halloween, it has a much less solemn tone and is actually considered joyful rather than mourning.”
According to Guavluve, it is not known how the holiday began, although many believe it has roots in indigenous Mexican or ancient Aztec celebrations. She explained it is a way to remember the forebearers of a family. The holiday is often a multi-day event with family and friends gathering to pay respects while also remembering family and friends who have died.
“The celebrations can take a humorous tone,” Guavluve said. “Celebrants often recall funny events and anecdotes about the departed.”
One of the most recognized figures during celebrations of El Dia de Muertos is La Catrina, a towering female skeleton with bright makeup and a flamboyant hat with feathers. Known as the Lady of Death, she protects the departed loved ones, guiding them through their final stages of life and death. In addition, toys may be offered to children who have passed on while bottles of alcohol or jars of aloe are offered to departed adults. Graves may be decorated with ofrendas which often include marigolds as it is believed that type of flower attracts the souls of the dead.
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