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Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday observed throughout Mexico, and around the world in other cultures. We live in Tauranga in New Zealand, which is a totes multicultural city, with humans who came from all over the world to settle down here.

The awesome collective of groovy humans who run The Incubator held a Día de los Muertos celebration, and Ferhad Junor and I joined the humans for some fun, good music, great food, and awesome bursts of colour. The Incubator runs a vibrant and ecclectic artspace at one of our favourite places in Tauranga; the Historic Village (which is also where the Multicultural Festival is held).

In the pre-Hispanic era skulls were commonly kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. At Día de los Muertos celebrations, skulls are made of cardbaord and papier-mâché, which we think is much nicer, and are painted in bright colours. Skulls can also be made out of sugar or chocolate ... yum! And, of course, you can GUESS which skull was Ferhad Junior's favourite!

Traditionally families built altars or small shrines in their homes; these sometimes featured Christian crosses or statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, and lots scores of candles. At the event we went to there was a competiton for kids to build shrines. Ferhad Junior giggled when he noticed one that was dedicated to High School Musical. They were all very, very good and we decided that we would hate to have had to try and judge the winner. They were all amazing, and very colourful.

If you ever needed any proof that Tauranga is very small (despite over 115,000 humans living here) here is Ferhad Junior with John Baxter, who was at school with our human Kaz (left) YEARS ago, and Ferhad Junior with Chris Woods who used to flat with our human's sister AND (many years later) with our human's Mum - bwa ha ha! On the right we are with our human's Mum Shirley, sister Jen, brother-in-law Paul, and nieces Jasmin and Holly. Jasmin won the competition for Best Dressed Kid because not only did she look awesome, but she did HER OWN make-up!!! Some young humans are so clever.

Día de los Muertos is all about body painting, and WOW, what a lot of effort the artists went to. We spoke to talented humans Belinda and Donelle, who took all day to paint model Shannon (left). It was so cool see so much gorgeous art work walking around on humans.

We also had the chance to check out The Incubator - wowsa - what a cool and groovy place! If you are ever in Tauranga, you should go down and check it out. If you can't get there, visit their website or Facebook page to see some of the amazingly talented work they do.

Just walking around was totes amazeballs. The colour! The music! The humans! The rocking horse! Such a fun way to spend a lovely spring evening, even if Ferhad Junior didn't pick the best place to sit! Can you spot the problem in the photos below? (HINT: It was a pricky situation.)

Five Fun Facts about Día de los Muertos

  1. Día de los Muertos dates back thousands of years to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl.
  2. In Mexico plans for the day are made throughout the year.
  3. A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (in Spanish calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas.
  4. The Smithsonian Institution have created a Latino Virtual Museum and accompanying multimedia e-book: Día de los Muertos: Day of the Dead.
  5. Many other cultures around the world have similar traditions of a day set aside to visit the graves of deceased family members.

Learn More about Día de los Muertos

Wikipedia page on Día de los Muertos
The growth of Día de los Muertos in the USA
Inside Mexico

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