Eastern Wake News

East Regional Library hosts programs about Day of the Dead

Josh Patricio-Jose, 5, works on making a sugar skull cookie out of the traditional Day of the Dead pan de muerto recipe- a cinnamon-raisin bread eaten during the celebration.
Josh Patricio-Jose, 5, works on making a sugar skull cookie out of the traditional Day of the Dead pan de muerto recipe- a cinnamon-raisin bread eaten during the celebration. mhankerson@newsobserver.com

While most of Knightdale hung artificial cobwebs and witches suspended from trees in front yards, some Knightdale children learned about sugar skulls, the importance of marigolds and how to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

The East Regional Library hosted two programs last week to show children and teens how the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, is celebrated differently than Halloween.

Both holidays invoke images of the dead and they happen back-to-back, but Day of the Dead is more like a memorial day to family members and friends who have passed away, librarian Janet West explained to a group of elementary school-aged children on Thursday.

Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is Nov. 1 and is followed by All Saint’s Day on Nov. 2. They are two separate holidays, but celebrations for each one sometimes overlap.

West led participants through two books that explained some of the traditions of the holiday, like creating altars to family members who have died. She also explained the significance of some of the holiday’s symbols like marigolds (thought to be the color of spirits), sugar skulls and calaveras, or skeletons.

Children at the library event were able to make cookies out of pan de muerto (bread of the dead) dough and in the shape of sugar skulls. They could also decorate their own paper sugar skulls and calaveras.

Brittany Lewis of Raleigh brought her daughter to the event, but didn’t know much about the holiday.

“I’ve seen cartoons (about it) but that’s about it,” she said.

Marisela Hernandez, also from Raleigh, brought her daughter too and said she thought it was an important chance to expose her daughter to different cultural experiences.

Hernandez is from El Salvador and does not celebrate Day of the Dead or Halloween.

“In my country, we do All Saint’s Day (but) my family doesn’t do anything for Day of the Dead,” she said.

According to the U.S. Census, about 11 percent of Knightdale’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. It’s estimated that roughy 714 Knightdale residents are Mexican. Day of the Dead is typically not celebrated by other Latino nationalities.

Library manager Brandi Hamilton said she hopes the programs were beneficial for more than just the people who probably already know about the holiday.

“It’s not neccesarily geared toward the Hispanic population, it’s just to raise awareness that this is part of the culture in America,” Hamilton said. “In America we tend to celebrate Halloween, it’s just interesting to look at how differently other cultures celebrate.”

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