Unlike last year, when we saw a few interesting stories about Reformation Day celebrations, I didn’t find a single one this year. Which is a shame since I was looking for an excuse to link to this awesome Reformation rap.
But there are a few stories about Dia de los Muertos. The Los Angeles Times had its “Day of the Dead feast is a high-spirited affair” piece with recipes and videos and tons of ghosts. It’s a weird piece in that it gets into quite a bit of detail about how the day is celebrated and yet includes no actual religion. The story features Sandi Romero of Mama’s Tamales:
Feasting on the traditional foods of the holiday (tamales, turkey in mole, pan de muerto and champurrado are some of the most popular) isn’t the primary focus of the day, but a secondary event, something that happens once the altars are built, the spirits remembered.
“You serve them first,” says Romero of the spirits and of the food traditionally placed at the altars and in cemeteries to honor the souls of the dead. “You remember them and then you eat.” . . .
Romero, a third-generation Angeleno, grew up with six siblings in the San Fernando Valley before she married and had a daughter and moved to Pasadena. Her grandfather was from Puebla, Mexico, her grandmother from Durango.
“Growing up, that was my thing: I loved Dia de los Muertos.” Romero, a former Aztec dancer, remembers dancing in the cemeteries on the holiday and hosting parties at her house celebrating the event.
It’s clear that this holiday revolves around remembering dead relatives but there is no explanation of its religious basis — either with the indigenous people of Mexico or in Catholicism. The Mexican celebration occurs in conjunction with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. This year, those days will be marked on November 1 and 2.
Instead, the Times treats the story mostly as a food feature. Compare that to the story in the San Francisco Chronicle. In this case, the story is a preview of a symphony concert with a Dia de los Muertos theme:
“There is no equivalent of ‘Jingle Bells’ for Dia de los Muertos,” Enrique Arturo Diemecke says of his biggest challenge as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony’s inaugural Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Family Concert at Davies Symphony Hall on Sunday. “Dia de los Muertos is almost an unexpected celebration. It sounds morbid, but it’s not. It’s more like a memorial day where we celebrate with our loved one’s favorite flowers, food and music. And we just happen to do that at the cemetery.”
To capture the spirit of the holiday, which mixes ancient Mexican Indian ceremonies with traditional Catholic beliefs, Diemecke insisted on putting together a musical program with a positive and upbeat twist.
“What ties the theme together is an overall feeling of happiness, with optimistic melodies and exciting rhythms,” says the Mexican-born maestro, who is now the music director of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic of Teatro Colon, in Argentina.
It’s a brief article, and it certainly doesn’t go into as much detail as it could, but at least it gives some basic information. Particularly for an arts piece.