By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Dia de los Muertos — or Day of the Dead — is not meant to be scary, says Assumption High School senior Joe Field. The day is to celebrate the life of a deceased relative. The Mexican feast is celebrated Nov. 2, with decorative altars as an important part of the celebration.
Assumption’s Spanish Club set up two altars — one to honor St. Teresa of Kolkata and the other to honor St. John Paul II. Field said that according to Mexican custom, the altars are relatively small in size for each individual. If a person is famous, the altar may be much bigger.
Items are placed on the altars as symbols of a loved one’s life. Candles represent that the person is always present. Flowers represent happiness and rebirth. Skulls, although scary to some, capture the spirit of the deceased. Personalization takes the form of photographs and favorite foods.
Students in various Spanish classes decorated catrina masks (white masks to honor the dead) or skulls for in the hallways. Many times altars will be decorated with sugar skulls to honor the deceased, Field noted.
St. Pope Paul II’s altar featured a photograph of Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day (WYD) in 2002 in Canada, taken by teacher Amy Shoemaker. Other items included holy water blessed by the late pope, prayer cards, a WYD backpack, magazine articles about him, and a travel guide of Krakow, Poland, his birthplace.
The St. Teresa altar featured photos of the saint taken during her visit to Assumption in 1976, other photos and newspaper articles about her, a rosary, holy water and tissue paper flowers.
Throughout the school are posters featuring a picture of a saint and a prayer to the saint written in Spanish, posters about now-deceased famous people with information about their lives and posters of fictional people and how those individuals lived in their fictional world.
The Day of the Dead celebration was a first for Spanish Club and Field said it was good to show how faith and holidays can be tied together.