Honoring the Dead

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Shane Maryott/UVU Review

Mexico is a place full of celebration and festivities, even the dead have their own holiday.

But here in the United States, there is less understanding of what happens on that day of the dead.

“I think that it’s a celebration in Mexico,” said student Jonathan Coyne. “I’m not sure if it is celebrated only in Central America, or if they celebrate it in South America as well.”

In an attempt to better inform the local community of this important holiday, the Woodbury Museum has created an altar for the dead, following the tradition in Mexico.

“We’re working on community outreach,” said Melissa Hempel, museum Curator. “We want to offer activities for the community to take part in. By having this altar here, we are inviting anyone from the university or local areas to bring things to put on the altar.”

The museum built the altar according to the tradition of the Day of the Dead. Because of its scent, the marigold flower, called the Flower of the Dead, is placed on top of the altar in an attempt to attract the spirits of those who have passed on. There were also skulls placed around the altar, since the skeleton is the symbol of this holiday.

As is traditional for families in Mexico, the museum gave members of the community an opportunity to bring pictures and memories of their loved ones that have passed on to place on the altar. However, there were not many who participated.

“Honestly, what we have up right now is from staff members here,” Hempel said, speaking of the pictures found on the altar. “We asked for suggestions from the school, but we didn’t really have a big public response. Since this is the first year that we’ve done this, we hope to have more involvement in the future.”

The event was in the museum for about a month. In the coming years, the museum hopes to have more activities take place on the actual Day of the Dead in order to promote this event it more effectively.

The altar is not the only exhibit in the Woodbury Museum. There are also many paintings and other works of art. It is hoped that in future years there will continue to be opportunities to honor the dead in this manner, and that the museum’s efforts in uniting the community will have the desired effect.

“It’s our biggest challenge, because even the students and some of the professors and employees at UVU don’t know that we’re here. That is what we are trying to change,” Hempel said.