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The big success of the recent Disney movie 'Coci' has brought much more attention to this Mexican holiday

DAVID F. ASHTON - Holy Family Catholic School eighth grader Alejandra Garcia presents her Day of the Dead altar, with its ofrendas to the late creator of Marvel superheroes, Stan Lee. While, in this country, Hallowe'en is celebrated as a fun and usually-silly season, many Christian religions celebrate the following day, November 1, as All Saints' Day – also known as All Hallows' Day, Hallowmas, the Feast of All Saints, or Solemnity of All Saints, among others.

That's what THE BEE learned in Eastmoreland from Holy Family Catholic School Spanish teacher Susana Parodi, at the school on that day. Across Latin America, those of the Roman Catholic faith refer to the day as "Día de Muertos", or "Day of the Dead".

Asked how a celebration called the "Day of the Dead" can actually be fun and lighthearted, Parodi explained, "It's part of Mexican culture; the difference between the way Mexicans and other cultures celebrate death, is that the Mexicans make it fun – it is not a day to be afraid of death.

"The idea of the skeleton posed doing funny things; candy skulls; and especially the bright colors 'of the sun' are all part of the Hispanic heritage influenced from the original Aztecs," Parodi told THE BEE.

All of students at the school were given an opportunity to participate in age-appropriate activities, ranging from creating posters, to making rather elaborately decorated "altars", on which "ofrendas" (offerings) are placed in honor of a deceased person, Parodi said.

Sixth grade student Reed Heichelbech proudly showed his poster, decorated with flowers and skulls. "The flowers are the way of happiness, and symbolically they help guide the departed back to their homes."

In another hallway, eighth grade student Alejandra Garcia showed off the handiwork of herself and some of her classmates – an altar for Stan Lee, the recently-deceased creator of the Marvel universe of superheroes.

"Originally I wanted to do one for rapper Mac Miller; but a lot of us are into Marvel, and we all wanted to contribute," Garcia explained. "So, my dad is from Mexico, and he contributed elements like the mariachi skeleton band – and the tablecloth you see here was a gift that my aunt in Mexico gave to my mother."

Later in the day, staff and students of the school on Chavez Blvd (formerly 39th) were set to vote on the posters and altars. "It's all part of the way we celebrate Día de Muertos," Parodi smiled.


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