Día de Los Muertos Festival – Nov. 4th

LIVE New Wilmington waits in anticipation for a BRAND NEW event coming to town in just a couple short months. On Saturday, November 4, New Wilmington will host its FIRST EVER Día de los Muertos Festival from 3 – 7 p.m. in the Market Street Garage (Fresh Marketplace) behind Mugsies Coffee House.

Miss Michelle Shaffer, event organizer and Spanish teacher at Wilmington Area High School, explains in detail the history of the national event and the new opportunity for New Wilmington to become involved. 

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One of my favorite things about teaching a foreign language is learning about other cultures.  Recently, I’ve also had the opportunity to share my culture with new members of our community that moved here from Mexico.  This interchange has been a great way to share traditions and help make them feel more at home.  Not only do I get to share with them our traditions of Easter Egg Hunts and Thanksgiving, but they also get to share their traditions with me.  One in particular that I’ve really enjoyed learning more about has been Día de Los Muertos.

If you’ve never heard of Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) before, the first thing you might imagine is a darker version of Halloween.   Certainly, from just the name itself, a holiday like this might sound a bit peculiar.  However, Day of the Dead is not Halloween.  And although it may share its fall season, Día de Los Muertos is far from the dark holiday you might have been expecting.

Día de Los Muertos is one of Mexico’s most important and traditional holidays which has a long history that is still evolving to this day.  This celebration originated with the indigenous Mesoamericans and was fused with Catholic beliefs after Spanish colonization.  The modern day celebration takes place on November 1st and November 2nd, All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day.   Día de Los Muertos still includes elements of the indigenous beliefs of honoring loved ones after they have died.

In Mexico today, communities come together during this time to commemorate those who have passed away.  Family members gather to share stories and remember their loved ones.  Traditionally many people visit cemeteries and decorate family member’s graves with marigold flowers and candles.  In some towns, it is common to spend the evening in the graveyard with family and friends, sharing stories, food, and music.

Memorials, or altares, are constructed to remember loved ones in individual homes or in town squares.  These memorials are usually adorned with photos, special articles, or favorite foods of the loved one.  Marigold flowers and brightly colored items such as sugar skulls, papel picado (a type of stamped paper banner), and candles are also included.

Last year, my Spanish Club and I created our very first altar in memory of my late grandparents.  It was my first one too, and I wasn’t sure what to expect at the beginning.  I started with their wedding picture and a few of their things that my family had saved.   As I set aside photos and items for the altar, I found it to be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on my happiest memories of them.  Each piece that I included created a unique representation of the most important aspects of their lives.  Having the altar in my classroom was a wonderful experience that allowed me to share my grandparents’ lives with others.

The traditions of Día de Los Muertos are vibrant, colorful, and take a unique form in each individual town and family.  This year I am so excited to announce that New Wilmington will be joining in as well, with its first ever Festival!

This family event is free-admission and will include face painting, DIY papel picado and altares, games, piñatas, and food.  This Día de los Muertos Festival will take place on Saturday, November 4th from 3 pm to 7 pm in the Market Space Garage behind Musgsie’s.  We are also looking for community members to get involved by creating their own altars in participating store fronts throughout town.  Please fill out Memorial Registration Form to be a part of this unique event! If you are interested in volunteering or have any other questions, please contact Michelle Shaffer at shaffer@wasd.school. We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, November 4th!  ¡Nos vemos allí!

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