Skulls with flowered eye holes, dancing skeletons and a bridal pair with grimaces from the grave in tune with Aztec music. Half skull, half living face, a lady in a large crimson dress with white flowers and a group of stovepipe-hatted white faces framed by large beards. Laughing. Dancing. The whimsical crowd moved slowly down 24th street. Trays with tiny sugar skulls and crude colored coffin pastries were lifted through the spectators. Candle light flickered softly over pictures of beloved, dead family members and friends, adorned with marigold swags and prayers on altars on the sidewalk.
It was Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which we had bumped into on our way through Mission District last year in November. I enjoyed the beat, gazed at giant skeletons and into dark eye wholes and thought about family members that had died, years and years ago. Like the two sides of the face of the lady in red this festival is emotionally twofold. Joy, dance and music on the one side, melancholic memories and loss on the other side.
Dia de los Muertos is a mix of an indigenous Aztec celebration and the Catholic All Saints Day which originated in Mexico. People gather to honor and celebrate departed loved one’s. In Mexico this actually happens on the cemetery. With guitars and the once favorite food of the person that had died, people sit on and around the grave, drink and talk and sing. In San Francisco Dia de los Muertos is celebrated with the Festival of Altars at Garfield Park and the street parade on 24th street through Mission District.
If you plan to go, don’t make the mistake to confuse this event with Halloween. It’s not about all things scary and monstrous. Tim Burton seems to have been inspired by Dia de los Muertos outfits for his movies Corpse Bride and The Nightmare before Christmas. Those are good preparations for a Dia de los Muertos visit as is the beautiful short film “Dia De Los Muertos” from Whoo Kazoo.
More Dia de los Muertos Events:
And here is a whole list of Events: mexicansugarskull.com