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Your guide to understanding the Day of the Dead ahead of Charlotte celebrations

·2 min read

Editor’s note: Do you have an ofrenda in your home to celebrate Dia de los Muertos? Email us a photo of it to charlottefive@charlottefive.com, and we might publish it in an upcoming story.

Rosalia Torres-Weiner, an artist who grew up in Mexico City, is helping Charlotte celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Here’s a quick explainer for those who are unfamiliar with the holiday.

In short: Celebrated Nov. 1-2 on the Catholic holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, the Day of the Dead has nothing to do with Halloween. Instead, it honors loved ones who have died. “We’re not sad; we’re not upset. We’re celebrating their life,” Torres-Weiner told CharlotteFive.

The background: The Latin American holiday originated in Mexico and honors the dead with lively celebrations and ofrendas, or altars. It combines indigenous Aztec practices with Catholicism, brought to the region by the Spanish.

What are ofrendas?: To celebrate the Day of the Dead, families set up an ofrenda on a table with everything their deceased loved ones enjoyed, such as their favorite and drink, she said. Often, they’ll play music for the deceased, as well.

The four elements of nature are incorporated:

Candles represent fire.

Food represents earth.

Water, beer or tequila represents water.

Decorative tissue paper known as “papel picado” represents wind or air.

Earth offerings for el Dia de los Muertos.
Earth offerings for el Dia de los Muertos.

What happens next?: A flowered arch around the ofrenda table where the souls are said to come through and enjoy the feast. “We believe the scent of the flowers is so strong, it attracts them,” Torres-Weiner said. And the candles act “like the lights at the airport” to help loved ones find us, she said.

What do the skulls and skeletons represent?: You’ll often see sugar skulls and masks. They represent the dead who have been awakened to share celebrations with their loved ones, and skeletons are often dressed up and posed as if they were having a great time.

Water offerings for el Dia de Los Muertos.
Water offerings for el Dia de Los Muertos.

Here’s how you can celebrate, honor your loved ones for Day of the Dead in Charlotte

Here’s how to find Torres-Weiner’s public ofrenda in Charlotte and join in on the celebration:

Location: Four Seasons Plaza, 6323 Albemarle Road, Charlotte

Neighborhood: Idlewild Farms/East Charlotte

When: Nov. 1, 4-6 p.m.

Cost: Free

Note: The day of this outdoor event has changed due to a forecast for rain.

Rosalia Torres-Weiner’s ofrenda will be set up Monday, Nov. 1 so Charlotteans can add on slips of paper with the names of their loved ones who have passed away to honor them, as well as members of the community who have died from COVID-19.
Rosalia Torres-Weiner’s ofrenda will be set up Monday, Nov. 1 so Charlotteans can add on slips of paper with the names of their loved ones who have passed away to honor them, as well as members of the community who have died from COVID-19.

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