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A Dia de los Muertos celebration – the Day of the Dead – was held at the Upper Valley Campus of Napa Valley College Sunday, Oct. 30, hosted by the UpValley Family Centers and Nimbus Arts. There were decorated altars, face painting, crafts, displays of paper mache’ animals, skeletons, ofrendas (altars), music, dancing and plenty of food.

The traditions of the Dia de los Muertos are a fusion of both old Aztec traditions dating back more than 2,000 years and the intermixed elements of the Catholic Spaniard missionaries of the 16th century. The All Souls Days of Nov. 1-2 are the traditional days of celebration, when the spirits of ancestors are said to revisit their descendants.

At the Dia de los Muertos celebration at the Upper Valley Campus Sunday there were 20 ofrendas (altars) each uniquely created and decorated with many of the traditional motifs of the Day of the Dead. These motifs included images of saints and crucifixes; candles to guide the ancestors on their way back; water and salt to quench their thirst and purify; incense to elevate prayers; and pictures of the deceased ancestors along with some of their personal items.

There were also foods prepared such as mole, tamales, fruits and breads, with aromas that were meant to please the spirits of the ancestors. Crosses made from flowers and flower petals were laid out to create a path for the souls as well.

For the kids there were crafts and face-painting as well as sugar skull decorating. There were also numerous performances of traditional Mexican dancing, and traditional food for sale.

This was the 10th annual Dia de los Muertos celebration held at the campus, and despite the threat of rain, it was well attended by adults and children alike.

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Reporter

Tom Stockwell is currently a staff writer for the St. Helena Star. He is an author of fiction and non-fiction books and has been a working journalist for a variety of technical publications as well as a consultant for numerous wineries in the Napa Valley.