Carefully arranged altars were placed in every corner of St. John’s Episcopal Church Friday, displaying photos, marigolds, candles and snacks like fruit, popcorn and bottles of Coke.
These “ofrendas,” or offerings, are a staple of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday celebrating lost loved ones that drew dozens of families to the church to celebrate.
“It is a way to show appreciation for our dead and let them know that we still remember them, we still care about them,” said Marcela Gonzalez, who organized the event through One22.
Kids took turns decorating sugar skulls with multicolor frosting and sprinkles, cutting patterns in colorful tissue paper and sitting to have their faces painted like skulls.
Maribel Bautista, who brought her family to the event, said because she lives so far away from her country, it’s important to celebrate Dia de los Muertos and remember ancestors in Jackson.
“We make the ofrenda, and it’s when their souls come visit us,” she said in Spanish. “Through the altar, we can offer them food, flowers, candles.”
Rogelio Tzompa wanted to bring his daughter to the celebration so she could learn about Mexican traditions. His family tradition is to get together with family to bake pan de muerto, a special “dead bread” eaten for the holiday.
“It means a lot now, because I remember my mother,” Tzompa said in Spanish. “It’s a special moment for us, because we’re always remembering our loved ones, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles — in my case, my mom.”
Miriam Morillon and Blanca Gonzalez worked to put together an ofrenda on behalf of Munger Mountain Elementary School.
Morillon said photos of who you’re remembering are important, as are candles and colorful cut-up paper. Gonzalez said marigolds’ strong scent are meant to attract the souls of loved ones to the ofrenda, and the candles guide their steps.
Food placed at the altar are the favorite items of the dead, whether it’s snacks or tequila or cigars, Gonzalez said. The ofrenda is also meant to be colorful.
“For Mexicans, death isn’t something sad,” Gonzalez said in Spanish. “It’s the total opposite, it’s something happy. Because we know, we have the conviction, that there is something more after we die. And we know that when we die, we’ll reunite again with our relatives.”
The event was a collaboration between One22, St. John’s, Jackson Cupboard, the Four Seasons and Teton County Parks and Recreation. Restaurants like Hatch, El Abuelito, Merry Piglets and San Juan contributed food.