Dia De Los Muertos is a time of celebration and remembrance and a time to come to terms with our own mortality.
The 3ooo year old tradition of honoring the dead, Dia De Los Muertos, is one of Mexico’s traditional holidays reuniting beloved ancestors with family and friends. It’s an ancient Aztec, Mayan, Tolteca, Tlaxcaltec, Chichimec, and Tecpanec ritual where death holds no terror, sorrow or weeping but instead, invites the dead to return to earth to visit their living relatives. The night is for feasts, masquerade, creativity and evocation. A time to share memorable stories and adorn altars with photos, mementos, fruit, bread and marigolds, with burning incense that lure the dead to the places where their family’s feasts are being held – this year that would be all over Southern California…Here’s a look at our So Cal Top 10.
1. L.A. Dia de Los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Oct 24th.
In the spirit of the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as the “Lady of the Dead,” and Samhain, the Celtic day feast of the dead, Hollywood Forever has developed a much desired and appreciated community event consisting of visual, cultural, and spiritual inspiration, now in its 16 year. On their day of celebration; exhibits, Aztec dance groups, 3 stages for live music and theatrical performances, costume contests, arts and craft vendors, food vendors, and alter presentations, from noon until midnight. Visitors are welcome to visit celebrity graves that have been decorated appropriately to commemorate the lives (and the deaths) of some of the most notable names being fortunate enough to be buried in HOLLYWOOD FOREVER. Among them, legendary actor Rudolf Valetino, and punk rock legends Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone. But wait, does anybody else notice that creepy guitar hand on the statue of Dee Dee’s headstone? Like, was that done on purpose? Either way, international singing sensation Lila Downs will headline the 2015 Dia de los Muertos during the event which is free for children 8 years and under and seniors until 4pm, with general admission set at $20 per person. Hollywood Forever Cemetery – 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90038. 12pm until 12am.
3. Dia de Los Muertos Celebration at El Pueblo (Olvera Street) – Oct 25 to Nov 3
The 9 day annual celebration at El Pueblo in downtown Los Angeles (near Union Station), culminates with a 2-day festival. El Pueblo is the birthplace of the City of Los Angeles founded 0n September 4, 1781, by eleven families of pobladores (44 persons including children) arriving from the Gulf of California. El Pueblo’s event includes Aztec dancers, street performers, mariachi bands, children’s activities and more. The candlelight Novenario processions will be held each night. This traditional colonial procession evokes special memories of the deceased with colorful pageantry and indigenous blessings. Before the procession, ceremonial cleansings and blessings will be offered. After each procession, free pan de muerto (sweet bread) and champurrado (a Mexican hot beverage) will be served in the spirit of the community. The Dia de los Muertos community altars (las ofrendas) will be on display outdoors in the Plaza area. Free for all ages. El Pueblo Historical Monument, Alameda and Caesar Chavez. 10am – 10pm.
4. Self Help Graphics and 42nd Annual Dia de Los Muertos in Boyle Hieghts – Oct 24 – Nov 1
Self Help Graphics may just be the largest and the longest running Dia De Los Muertos community event in So Cal, if not the country, with traditional blessings, musical performances, food, craft vendors, and something they call, “The Return of the Souls” art exhibition. With 3 separate events including a collaboration with Grand Park, they host up to 15,000 attendees a year involving over 50 community organizations, and 150 plus volunteers. Don’t miss their traditional alters, face painting and children’s workshops abound this year with live performances by R&B/ Soul Singing Legend Brenton Wood for both the dead and the living to enjoy. 1300 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033. 4pm – 10pm.
5. 6th Annual Dia de Los Muertos Cultural Festival at Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary – Nov 1
Meanwhile…back at the mortuary…There’s no better place to rest than Sky Rose’s hilltop of breathtaking views, courtyard and surrounding gardens. The largest cemetery in the world, Rose Hills Memorial Park has been host to the dearly departed since 1914, more recently becoming one of So Cal’s most desired destinations for the Dia de Los Muertos annual celebration. Enjoy a culturally rich day as you walk through SkyRose Chapel’s art exhibit, and stroll through the marketplace for arts and craft treasures. Visit beautifully crafted altars, and enjoy the sounds and performances of local artists. Don’t forget to enter their first-ever Catrina makeup contest. This year’s event will be using the Monarch Butterfly for inspiration. The butterfly is known for over populating the skies over the Mexican mountain village of Anguangeo, around the same time as Muertos, sometimes covering one’s view with a flurry of orange, as millions of monarch butterflies take flight ending in the remote groves above the town. Many people believe the butterflies are the spirits of loved ones returning home. 3888 Workman Mill Road. Whittier, CA 90601. 11am – 4pm.
6. San Pedro Dia de los Muertos – Nov 1
Holy Calacas!!! On Sunday, November 1st, Historic Downtown San Pedro will transform itself into a Dia de los Muertos straight out of the afterlife, as the streets come alive with art, culture, delicious cuisine and live entertainment. Don’t go through life another day without getting your face painted! 6th Street between Mesa and Centre Streets will be filled with the sounds of traditional and contemporary Latin-American performers. The festival will also include a very special altar exhibition featuring the work of artists and community members. Kids will enjoy the La Muerte Vive! Art Area where they can make special free take-home crafts. Snow cones, churros, funnel cakes, hot dogs, grilled cheese, aguas frescas & cotton candy, along with dozens of free samples are given out by some of San Pedro’s greatest Downtown restaurants! Enter the Sacred Altar Exhibition and Competition featuring hand crafted altars both heartfelt and humorous, simple and extravagant. In addition to deceased family members and friends, altars are constructed for departed pets, celebrities, and historical figures. If you don’t have an alter, no worries…there will also be a community altar where anyone who has lost a loved one is invited to leave a picture, personal note or other small item of remembrance. 390 West 7th Street, San Pedro, CA 90731. 3pm – 9pm.
7. MOLAA Dia de los Muertos Family Festival in Long Beach – Nov 1
Bring the whole family (dead or alive) to the Museum of Latin American Art for their Día de los Muertos festival, a vibrant celebration of life and loved ones. According to folk lore, while the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to join the festivities. MOLAA has quite a day of free family art workshops, live performances, gallery tours, face painting and unique craft vendors prepared for them. The Museum will be featuring a community altar in honor of the late Tejano singer, Selena, and Calavera costume contest! Come take a lesson so you’re ready for next year, as ofrendas are made at home. The altar needs to have lots of food, bottles of soda, hot cocoa and water for the weary spirits. The museum’s alter will have toys and candies and on Nov. 2, cigarettes and shots of mezcal. Little folk art skeletons and sugar skulls, provide the final touches…don’t wait until it’s too late. 628 Alamitos Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90802. 11am – 5pm.
8. Santa Monica Dia de Los Muertos – Nov 1
Again…sooner or later were all going to the same place…the cemetery…get a special pre-screening each year at Santa Monica’s Woodlawn Cemetary’s Day of the Dead. This event features an opening procession, a workshop to create offerings for loved ones that have passed, a blessing with traditional music and dance, and self-guided tours of the gravesites of famous locals. Fresh tamales and pan de muerto will be available as The City of Santa Monica invites the community to join their Día de los Muertos celebration. Wanna make a sugar skull…? What? You don’t know how to make a sugar skull yet…? Ok…Here’s a crash course…Sugar skulls are authentic Mexican sugar skulls colorfully decorated and ready to adorn an ofrenda. If kept dry, they look beautiful for years! They are made with cane sugar and are decorated with items such as colored foil, icing, beads, and feathers. Woodlawn Cemetery, 1847 14th Street. 1pm – 4pm.
9. 2ND Annual Dia De Los Muertos Festival SCV – Nov 7
Ashes to Ashes…and Dust to Dust…This is a Santa Clarita Valley, Chamber of Commerce event hosted by Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary and in cooperation with De Mis Suenos Cultural Arts Program held on the 7th, just in case there are still some lingering lost loved ones hanging about. Pray for the remembrance of those who have died as families celebrate the tradition and culture of this special holiday. Santa Clarita’s prestigious event was first introduced in 2014, and is the largest free Dia De Los Muertos Festival in the Santa Clarita Valley. Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary 23287 N. Sierra Hwy, Newhall, Santa Clarita, CA 91321. 2pm – 9pm
10. Old Pasadena Day of the Dead Fiesta – Oct 24 to Nov 1
Old Pasadena’s got one foot in the grave, and the other in solid DooDah. It’s their first ever Day of the Dead Fiesta promising fun, and hands-on craft activities hosted by the Armory Center for the Arts and Color Me Mine Pasadena. Make-up artists will transform your face into a calavera (sugar skull) and other hand painted pseudo-corpses will offer free homemade paletas (popsicles) to the first 200 guests. Dressed in extravagantly plumed costumes, Aztec Fire Dancers will provide an authentic ritual performance to bless the altar installation. There will be a self-guided tour hosted by participating businesses allowing you to hash tag your favorite altar on Instagram. Judges will award $500 to the Best Traditional and Contemporary Altar. Speaking of DooDah, be sure to stay alive long enough to revisit Old Town Pasadena for this year’s DooDah parade…you’ll wish your friends and family back from the dead too for that celebration – but that parade falls closer to Thanksgiving, which may have to focus purely on its own traditions of being thankful for just plane being alive. 1pm – 4pm.