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Keep it lively on Day of the Dead

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Skeletons are a common theme in celebrations of Dia de los Muertos, or Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Locally, the holiday comes to Cheekwood from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27.

Unlike dressing up and trick-or-treating on Halloween as a fall tradition, students in the Spanish department are celebrating in their own way with “Día de los Muertos.”

The Mexican holiday Day of the Dead is being celebrated Saturday, Oct. 27 at Cheekwood Art and Gardens.

“Celebrating another culture with the people who own it is very rewarding,” Dan Ritter said. “Hispanic parents are able to share their heritage with their children without having to be in their country.”

Arts and crafts stations will be set up for children to learn more about the Day of the Dead holiday. Belmont students are involved in the celebration by volunteering at different childrens’ stations. Students are in charge of Spanish bingo, helping children make crafts and “papel picado,” a traditional paper cutting activity that involves using colorful papers to create decorations for the celebration.

Besides being able to volunteer for community service convocation credit, students who participated in previous years believe that the event is worthwhile.

All Belmont students, especially the Spanish students, are urged to volunteer. The celebration is not only targeted toward young or Hispanic people; two thousand people throughout Nashville come to participate in the event to celebrate and learn about Mexican culture.

“There’s a huge cultural aspect about Día de los Muertos that, unless you’re in a Spanish class, you just don’t know,” Ritter said.

Getting There
The Mexican holiday Day of the Dead is being celebrated 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27 at Cheekwood Art and Gardens in West Nashville. Admission is $10, but student volunteers will not have to pay to get in. Students interested in signing up can talk to Dr. David Julseth or students Joanna Larson or Dan Ritter.

Activities during the day include live music by a mariachi band and dancing. Caterers include U.S. Border Cantina and a taco wagon; Las Paletas will provide ice cream; Aurora Bakery supplies “pan de muerto,” or Bread of the Dead, a traditional food for the holiday. A “mercado,” or market, will be set up to allow Hispanics to sell their authentic products.

Day of the Dead in Mexico is a day to remember ancestors and to celebrate death. It is a misconception that it is equivalent to Halloween in the U.S., even though there are similar elements. Skeletons are a common theme in both celebrations, but Day of the Dead is not scary like Halloween. It is about offering food and gifts to deceased relatives at gravesites and vigils. These “ofrendas” allow families to remember loved ones and to keep their spirit alive.

Jeannette Ceja, a Hispanic student who is attending the Cheekwood celebration for the first time this year, observes Day of the Dead rituals with her family.

“It is not as much of a celebration for my family in Mexico, but more of a day of remembrance to those loved ones who have passed away. We have gone to visit their graves to pay our respects,” Ceja said.

Besides learning about Mexican culture, the Day of the Dead event will also allow people to become familiar with Cheekwood. The 100 acres of Cheekwood, including the mansion, was built for the Cheek family who were the entrepreneurs of the Maxwell House coffee company. Dr. David Julseth, chair of the department of foreign language, believes that one of the reasons that Cheekwood has the celebration is to extend to the community and raise awareness of what they have to offer.

“A lot of students don’t know what Cheekwood is; it’s a place for arts and gardens. The end of October is a pretty time to visit Cheekwood,” Julseth said.

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