Day of the Dead: Hollywood Forever Cemetery

I spent about 18 hours at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery yesterday for their annual Dia de los Muertos festival. I created an altar with the students from my Modern Mysticism and the Afterlife class at Otis College of Art and Design. This year, we decided to create a space-themed altar, playing with the ideas of creation, mystery and the unending potential of space exploration. We honored Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Laika the Russian dog and Gordo the Space Chimp. We let people write messages to their dead on a paper star and paste it to our rocket which we will burn and send to wherever those wishes will go. Day of the Dead is when people go to their family’s graves, clean them and bring food, drink, favored items of the deceased, flowers, incense and welcome the folks back for the night. What I like best about it is that it brings death into the life cycle in a festive albeit emotional way and really lets a person hang with their dead loved ones. Basically, its a healthy way to celebrate someone’s life although one can also make political and social commentary with altars or create something funny, ironic or just whimsical – like one someone made to remember the dinosaurs! All around, one cool holiday.

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