Centuries-old observance arose in Mexico

Edie Buess Dickinson of Bowling Green puts a hand-made flower on the altar during the Day of the Dead celebration at the Toledo Museum of Art yesterday.


The Day of the Dead is alive and well in Toledo.

About 200 people are expected at a mass remembering dead loved ones – Mexican style – at St. Peter and Paul’s Church on Wednesday. And over the weekend hundreds took part in Day of the Dead celebrations at Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center, the Toledo Botanical Garden, and the Toledo Museum of Art.

The Day of the Dead, which falls on Wednesday but is often celebrated for several days, is a blend of Catholic rituals and indigenous beliefs of celebrating life after death that has been marked in Mexico for centuries.

"Death is not really viewed as an ending in Mexico," said Dora Lopez, whose Day of the Dead family altar at the Sofia Quintero center was judged the best by a group of artists. "It’s viewed as more a beginning and extension of life."

Day of the Dead is to remember good times with friends and family who have died and draw their souls back with a display of their favorite things on an altar that also features playful skeletons and skulls.

On the Day of the Dead, some believe, the deceased are given divine consent to visit their family and friends who are living.

Because the journey back from the beyond is thought to be long, altars typically include the deceased’s favorite foods and a glass of water to refresh weary souls.

One at Sofia Quintero also included cans of Busch beer and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes.

The altar includes hand-made flowers.

On Ms. Lopez’s altar, a picture of her mother, Lucy Lopez, who died July 14, was prominent along with a program from a Lawrence Welk show her mother loved, a basketball – she had played the sport in high school, and a John Kerry presidential campaign bumper sticker, as well as a cross, a Rosary, and a pin of the Pope.

Gathering those mementos together was good for Ms. Lopez.

"It’s so therapeutic to build these altars," she said.

Such altars and other Day of the Dead remembrances have become far more common in the United States in the past 10 to 15 years.

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(Toledo, Ohio)