REMSEN – It is traditional in many Spanish cultures to celebrate the Day of the Dead, a custom that combines Catholic beliefs with Aztec customs.
This was conveyed to the fifth through twelfth grade students at the beginning of the prayer service by Sam Medina, a junior student in both Mary Arens’ theology class and Kris Full’s Spanish class at St. Mary High School. Sam brought the idea to his teachers and explained this was a part of his culture that he would like to share with students and staff.
“I thought it was important because I’ve already learned so much about the U.S. and Remsen cultures and celebrations in the time I’ve been here,” he said. “What’s a celebration if it is not shared with others?”
The point of Day of the Dead celebration is a joyous remembrance of loved ones who have passed, and a celebration of their life. An altar is created – not for worship – but for remembrance, with pictures of loved ones and items that were special to them.
“The students were asked to bring pictures of family and friends who had passed away, and any mementos that might have had special meaning for their loved ones,” Full said. “It was so touching to hear the students’ stories about their loved ones.”
Since it is a celebration, there is food – traditionally candies, fruits and bread – along with candles and aromatic flowers that are said to attract the spirits of the dead.
“Sam led the bread-making session after school,” Full noted. “He asked classmates Seth Nelson, Emma Galles, and Maddy Feller to help. We learned the special technique used to form the dough while making the bread.”
The service concluded with a hymn and a litany, interchanging names of deceased relatives of student and staff instead of the canonized saints.
“For myself,” Arens commented, “it was very moving to be a part of young children, teenagers, and adults reverently handing over pictures of their loved ones to be placed in the display along with other pictures of saints such as Mother Teresa, Maximillian Kolbe and Pope John Paul II.”