Glendale community celebrates the third annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration on Artsakh Street
November 11, 2019
Playing Latin music, lighting candles, hanging papel picado (chiseled paper), painting children’s faces, and grabbing tacos from the stand were just a few of the activities at Glendale’s third annual celebration of Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead).
On Nov. 2, people from all over the L.A. area came to the one place where the Glendale community held an event to celebrate the holiday and honor the memory of lost loved ones. Their main goal was to expose families and young children to the traditions of The Day of the Dead and have a fun celebration. “This event introduced me to this holiday and all the traditions and rituals that came with this day,” said Melia Movsesian, a volunteer and Hoover High School junior.
The Day of the Dead remains one of Mexico’s most important cultural traditions. This three-day holiday is dedicated towards remembering deceased relatives by keeping their spirit alive through sacred traditions, one of which includes the altar. The celebrations begin on Oct. 31 honoring the spirits of the children, continue Nov. 1 to honor the spirits of the adults, and conclude Nov. 2 to honor the spirits of all the dead.
The holiday began in Mexico but is now celebrated throughout Latin America as well. The Mexican culture believed that “the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness,” which is why this holiday consists of lively festivities to honor their memory.
At the event, community members set up an altar in Studio 127 — an old shop that is now a city-owned property — where people placed pictures of their relatives, mementos, candles and food. They place an ofrenda (offering) on the ritual altar. Throughout the night, people walked in and out of the room commemorating the deceased, and most people were fascinated with this tradition.
The altar is said to guide the deceased through the afterlife, ensuring their happiness and safety. Sometimes, the candles are placed in a cross shape in order to act as a compass for the departed. Altars could also be filled with lots of food that the person enjoyed.
This holiday traces back to the Aztec Empire in Pre-Columbian Mexico. The Aztecs worshipped the goddess of the underworld also called ‘The Lady of the Dead.’ Catholic influence changed the original holiday date from August to November.
Today, most people who attend the city-wide celebrations make themselves look like calaveras (skulls), with makeup. At the face paint station, children’s smile grew bigger when one of the artists painted the skull on their face. This is one of the ways they honor the deceased and most have begun to use this as a Halloween costume.
This year’s event featured different activities children could participate in and many organizations such as Glendale Water and Power and the Latino Association had their own table to advertise and workers discussed with the public. Most young kids looked forward to coloring the sugar skulls with paint; however, after the mess it had caused in the past, this year kids colored the skulls with markers. The skulls are another piece of decor to celebrate the holiday and some can be eaten while others just represent the relative.
The holiday is not represented in cities in America, but the movie industry has also used this holiday to create Coco — an animated film based on The Day of the Dead. In the movie, families must put up the picture of their deceased family members or else they are considered forgotten and will forever perish from the Land of the Dead. “The only things I’ve learned about this holiday is from the movie Coco,” said Hoover junior Monet Nadimyan. She was happy she attended this event, she said, as she learned more about this holiday and the roles that each tradition plays.
Glendale’s Office of the City Clerk and the Glendale DDM (Dia de Los Muertos) had been planning and preparing leading up to the day of the event. They arrived on Artsakh along with other volunteers early in the morning to set up the event. Movsesian said that she was excited to help take part in such a big event.
Young students opened the event promptly at 4 p.m. singing a mashup of different songs as families began crowding the street. The Urartu Coffee shop even closed for the night as they knew that the street would be filled with lots of people. Also, a stand of Colombian coffee was being sold next to the churro stand.
Mayor Ara Najarian of Glendale and City Council members attended the event to celebrate with the community. “The attendance was twice as much as last year,” said Councilmember Vartan Gharpetian when asked about the event at the City Council meeting the following Tuesday.
“It was a fun and exciting event that allowed all of us to come together and celebrate a very interesting holiday,” Movsesian said.