Altars of Remembrance

At this time of year, Phoenix, Arizona is full of skulls, skeletons and marigolds.  But it has little to do with Halloween.  We are getting ready for a much older holiday – Día de los Muertos.

Celebrated around November 1, Día de los Muertos is believed to have begun more than 3,000 years ago with an Aztec festival. These rituals and practices were imperfectly included by the Catholic Church in the Christian remembrance of the dead – All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2).

An example of a personal altar. Courtesy of Phoenix Public Library

In Mexico and throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region, Día de los Muertos is actually a three-day festival honoring deceased friends and family members.  It begins on October 31 (Halloween in the US) and continues through November 2.  November 1 is the day usually used to remember deceased children and November 2 is the day for adults who have died.

Word of the day: Grave: Where a person is buried.

Observing the tradition in Mexico, family members visit grave sites to weed and clean them, and decorate with paper flowers, wreaths, candles and other items.  People may also create a private altar in the home, honoring the deceased with a

Word of the day: Forehead. The part of the face above the eyebrows and below the hair.

sugar skull (with the name of the deceased written across the forehead), marigolds, and pan de muerto (a sweet egg bread in the shape of a skull or rabbit).  These ofrendas (offerings) usually include some of the deceased’s favorite food and drink – perhaps a bottle of beer or tequila.

In towns near the Arizona-Mexico border, people continue the traditions by decorating grave sites and preparing private altars at home.  In bigger cities like Phoenix and Tucson, Día de los Muertos has become more public.  Artists are invited to create altars in galleries and other public spaces.

Terms associated with death: To bury is to place someone in the ground after death. A coffin is the box they are put in. The spot in the ground where they are placed is a grave and a large area full of graves is a cemetery. Headstones are the markers by the graves that have the person’s name and birth and death dates on them.

Phoenix Public Library’s Burton Barr Central Library has a small gallery on the first floor which shows work by new artists.  Each year, the library invites local artists and other community members to create altars for Día de los Muertos.

Amy Nakamoto Williams created an altar to remember her dogs.  Williams likes the process of creating an altar and felt it was a way to express her Japanese heritage.

“”Honoring the loved ones by creating an altar is very much like Buddhism and the way I was raised,” she told The Word. “My family’s home always contained an altar – fresh flowers, favorite food and drinks, photos, notes and special things on special days.”

Over the past 15 years, Phoenix artist Lisa Takata has created several altars for the Día de los Muertos exhibit at the library.  Her altars often allow visitors to create a paper flower or add to the altar something from their own experience.

“One of the things I have been impressed by over the years is that many of the written comments are written in the first person directly to the individual whom they are honoring,” she said. “A very personal journey…”

Original article by Rita Marko – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team.

Altars of Remembrance Quiz: Medium

Start

Congratulations - you have completed Altars of Remembrance Quiz: Medium.

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%


Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
12345
End
Return
At this time of year, Phoenix, Arizona is full of skulls, skeletons and marigolds. Surprisingly, it is not for Halloween. We’re getting ready for a much older holiday. The holiday is called Día de los Muertos and its roots are in Aztec civilization.

People believe that the holiday started more than 3,000 years ago. Originally, it was an Aztec holiday to honor the goddess of the underworld Mictecacihuati.

Nowadays, in Mexico and in the US-Mexico border region Día de los Muertos is a three-day festival. Families meet to remember dead family members and friends. It begins on October 31 (Halloween in the US) and continues to November 2.

On these days, families visit the graves of their beloved ones. They clean them and decorate them with paper flowers, wreaths, candles or other things. Families often picnic next to the grave. They tell stories about the deceased or sing their favorite songs.

Tell a story: In English, you always tell a story or a joke, you never say a story or a joke

Sometimes, people also create a private altar at home. They decorate it with a sugar skull which has the name of the deceased written across the forehead, marigolds and food or drinks the person liked when they were alive.

In towns near the Arizona-Mexican border, people follow the tradition by decorating graves and preparing private alters. In the cities of Phoenix and Tucson, artists are also invited to create altars in galleries and other public places.

Phoenix Public Library’s Burton Barr Central Library has a small gallery for new artists. Each year, the library invites local artists to create altars for Día de los Muertos.

Amy Nakamoto Williams created an altar to remember the beloved dogs in her life. “Honoring the loved ones by creating an altar is very much like Buddhism and the way I was raised,” she told The Word. “My family’s home always contained an altar – fresh flowers, favorite food and drinks, photos, notes and special things on special days.”

Be impressed: If you are impressed you think that something is very good, ‘I’m impressed by your English. Your English is very good.’

Artists often provide pen and paper for visitors to write a message to a deceased one. Lisa Takata, a Phoenix artist, frequently invites people to do so. She said: “One of the things I have been impressed by over the years is that many of the written comments are written in the first person directly to the individual whom they are honoring…sometimes it is clear that they are saying something aloud for the first time or writing something they always wanted to share with that person,” she said. “A very personal journey…”

Original article by Rita Marko – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

Altars of Remembrance Quiz: Mild

Start

Congratulations - you have completed Altars of Remembrance Quiz: Mild.

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%


Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
12345
End
Return
At this time of year, Phoenix, Arizona is awash in skulls, skeletons and marigolds.  But it has little to do with Halloween.  We are getting ready for a much older holiday – one with roots in Aztec civilization – Día de los Muertos.

Celebrated around November 1, Día de los Muertos is believed to have originated more than 3,000 years ago with an Aztec festival honoring the goddess of the underworld Mictecacihuatl.  Originally celebrated by the Aztecs for a month in what would correspond to August in the modern calendar, these rituals and practices were grafted imperfectly by the Catholic Church on to the Christian commemoration of the dead – All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2).

Word of the day: Graft: The process of joining one thing to another.

In Mexico and throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region, Día de los Muertos is actually a three-day festival honoring deceased friends and family members.  It begins on October 31 (Halloween in the US) and continues through November 2.  November 1 is traditionally reserved for remembering deceased infants and children – Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels).  November 2 is reserved for honoring deceased adults.

Observing the tradition in Mexico, family members visit grave sites to weed and clean them, and decorate with paper flowers, wreaths, candles and other items.  Often, families picnic beside the grave, telling stories about the deceased or singing a favorite song.

An example of a public altar – the artists are remembering their mothers through recipes and inviting visitors to leave recipes of their own. Courtesy of Phoenix Public Library

People may also create a private altar in the home, honoring the deceased with a sugar skull (with the name of the deceased written across the forehead), marigolds, and pan de muerto (a sweet egg bread in the shape of a skull or rabbit).  These ofrendas (offerings) usually include some of the deceased’s favorite food and drink – perhaps a bottle of beer or tequila. Ofrendas welcome the souls of the dead by enticing them with the things that provided them pleasure when they were alive.

Word of the day: Memento: An object given or kept as a reminder of someone or something

In towns near the Arizona-Mexico border, people continue to observe the holiday by decorating grave sites and preparing private altars in the home.  In the more urban communities of Phoenix and Tucson, Día de los Muertos has taken on a more public expression.  Artists are invited to create altars in galleries and other public spaces.  Some artists embrace the tradition and honor deceased loved ones with highly personal altars that include old family photographs and mementos of the deceased such as a ball cap or walking stick.  Other artists use the opportunity to make a political statement.

Phoenix Public Library’s Burton Barr Central Library has a small gallery on the first floor which provides a venue for emerging artists.  Each year, the library issues a “call for altars,” inviting local artists and other community members to create altars for Día de los Muertos.  Displayed for the two weeks prior to the holiday, the majority of these altars have taken a more traditional approach and honored a loved one.

Amy Nakamoto Williams created an altar to remember the beloved dogs in her life.  Williams identified with the process of creating an altar and felt it was a natural expression of her Japanese heritage.

“Honoring the loved ones by creating an altar is very much like Buddhism and the way I was raised,” she told The Word. “My family’s home always contained an altar – fresh flowers, favorite food and drinks, photos, notes and special things on special days.”

Terms associated with death: To bury is to place someone in the ground after death. A coffin is the box they are put in. The spot in the ground where they are placed is a grave and a large area full of graves is a cemetery. Headstones are the markers by the graves that have the person’s name and birth and death dates on them.

Over the past 15 years, Phoenix artist Lisa Takata has created several altars for the Día de los Muertos exhibit at the library.  “I really do worry that we will someday have a generation of people who have forgotten how to make things with their hands,” Ms Takata explains.  “When I am hand spinning yarn, weaving fabric or making pottery, I have always felt this very strong connection with those who have passed along these techniques and traditions before me. So taking the time and care to craft something handmade feels like the right way to honor their memory.”

Many of the altars provide an opportunity for visitors to contribute their own remembrances.  Artists often provide pen and paper for visitors to write a message to a deceased loved one.  Some artists’ altars have been more participatory, inviting visitors to create a paper flower or add to the altar something from their own experience.  Ms Takata’s altars frequently provide such an opportunity.

“One of the things I have been impressed by over the years is that many of the written comments are written in the first person directly to the individual whom they are honoring…sometimes it is clear that they are saying something aloud for the first time or writing something they always wanted to share with that person,” she said. “A very personal journey…”

Rita Marko – Phoenix, Arizona

Altars of Remembrance Quiz: Spicy

Start

Congratulations - you have completed Altars of Remembrance Quiz: Spicy.

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%


Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
12345
End
Return

Leave a comment





four − 3 =