Día de Muertos: Historic Forest Home Cemetery hosts annual celebration of life for Milwaukee families
Forest Home Cemetery hosted the annual Día de Muertos holiday, a family-oriented festival that brought residents from local Hispanic neighborhoods together at the historic cemetery and arboretum to honor the traditions of the Day of the Dead.
The October 29 event began with a 5K Run/Walk through the almost 200 acres of the cemetery’s grounds, then continued with food trucks, local vendors, arts and crafts for children, music and entertainment, traditional Día de Muertos ofrendas, and a procession of faith to the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Each year I am struck by the number of families of different cultures and races I see attend. It brings me joy to see all the children playing together, dressed in their costumes and with their faces painted as if they were living Calaveras,” said said Darryl Morin, National President of Forward Latino. “It reminds me that as a country, we are unique in our willingness to adopt the best of all cultures, and embrace it as our own.”
Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is a century-old Mexican holiday that honors loved ones who have passed away. It loosely coincides with the American tradition of Halloween, but it is a cheerful celebration with no spooky connotations. Thanks to the popular animated film “Coco” by Pixar and Walt Disney, the American public has become more familiar with the holiday tradition and its meaning.
“I am so grateful to the Forest Home Cemetery for hosting their Día de Muertos festivities. From the moment I walked through the front gate adorned with their beautiful calaveras, the decorative and colorful skulls and skeletons, I felt the warm and joyous nature of the holiday,” said Morin. “Unlike All Souls Day, which is a time to pray for and commemorate loved ones lost, Día de Muertos is truly a celebration of the time and the memories we shared with our loved ones. It is not a holiday of sadness or grief, but of joy and gratitude.”
Originating from Catholic, Aztec, and other indigenous beliefs, Día de Muertos is a vibrant day of observance that has little resemblance to the symbolism of Halloween. Masks were traditionally worn, but the practice evolved as people began painting their faces to look like skulls. The expression is seen as a chance to overcome the fear of death.
“I was struck by the chapel’s entrance adorned overhead with papel picado – the paper flags in vibrant colors and in different shapes with intricate designs and patterns strung together. Inside the Landmark Chapel, there were a number of ofrendas, areas of offerings, created and decorated by various organizations. Each one of these had images of loved ones with the offerings of food or items prized by those celebrated. Each one was surrounded with colorful paper décor, pan de muerto, the bread of the dead and marigolds, a flower that is used to represent the beauty and the brevity of life,” added Morin. “As I walked between the ofrendas, each was its own unique celebration of life.”
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