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By Karen Nikos-Rose on October 21, 2019

By Ellen Caminiti, UC Davis News and Media Relations Intern

The Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on the UC Davis campus is always a good place to find culture in the form of musical and other performances. But this month, a Day of the Dead "altar" is on display in the lobby, too.

The Latino Center for Art and Culture in Sacramento, in cooperation with various UC Davis entities, have all created a space for people to honor, celebrate and remember their deceased loved ones, as part of the Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead holiday. The holiday is commemorated generally over three days from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

The colorful, three-dimensional "altar" displays contributions from the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center and Mariachi Cielito Lindo, a mariachi group made up of UC Davis faculty, staff and students.

The holiday is celebrated in Mexico, Central America, South America and in the Caribbean, although it is recognized in other cultures.

Bread closeup
Bread is typically placed on a Día de los Muertos altar. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

In the Mondavi, the ofrenda, has sprung up, adorned with such things such as marigolds, photos, notes and flags. As stated on an infographic near the display, “The altar is a complex creation with incredible symbolism as each element carries specific meaning.” It is added to each day by those who visit.

Outward symbols include, for instance, water, which is placed in glasses on a lower level, meant to quench the thirst of the souls. Candles decorate a higher level, to represent love for the deceased.

Bread is placed on the altar, as well, typically meant to symbolize a way for the living to respect the souls of the lost ones and help them on their spiritual journey.

Anyone is invited to contribute to the display. Paper and pens are provided to leave notes for loved ones or to express sentiments of other kinds.

More information about multicultural holidays, here.

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