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Whatcom Museum offers special Día de los Muertos event

Whatcom Museum offers a special family activity day celebrating the a Latin American tradition of Día de los Muertos with activities and art projects this weekend.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead in Spanish) is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, in the museum’s Lightcatcher galleries, 250 Flora St. at Grand Avenue. Admission is $3, which includes entry to all three museum venues. Museum members are admitted free.

“It’ll be wonderful; I do think it will be fun,” said Chris Brewer, museum educator and public programs coordinator. “They’ll be able to share the celebration in a very authentic way.”

During the holiday, which is celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, Latin American cultures honor their dead friends and relatives with special feasts and by constructing altars called “ofrendas” with items that were dear to their dead ancestors. Families visit graveyards and decorate the headstones of the departed with marigolds and colorful trinkets. Festive meals feature a kind of sweet roll called pan de muerto, sugar-candy skulls, and other traditional foods.

Día de los Muertos is especially popular in Mexico and among Mexican Americans living in California, the Southwest, and in Hispanic enclaves across the U.S. Celebrations feature brightly painted skulls, cheerily macabre dancing skeletons and Catrina and Catrin, the traditional skeleton couple who wear elegant and brightly colored clothing. They are sometimes depicted in a wedding ceremony.

Its popularity has grown over the centuries as pre-Columbian indigenous rituals merged with Halloween and the Christian holidays of All Hallows Day, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

“It’s a very different approach to celebrating than many other cultural communities do,” Brewer said.

Saturday’s museum events feature a variety of projects with the assistance of Community to Community, a social justice organization that works closely with local Hispanics.

Ofrendas will be on display so participants can see an accurate representation of the tradition.

Activities will include face-painting the traditional “calaveras” or skeleton face and a dress-up activity where children can transform themselves into Catrina and Catrin. In the Family Interactive Gallery, participants can making a dancing skeleton marionette. Other art activities include skull sculptures and coloring pages and the tradition “papel picado,” a delicate and ephemeral paper-cutting art that is used to decorate altars.

For more information about the program, go online to whatcommuseum.org or call 360-778-8930.

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