Images provided by author. Top: Ryan’s Day of the Dead memory box.
Halloween season is approaching, which means that the Washington High School community is getting ready to celebrate, while adding their own cultural twists to it. Ms. Danner Vera, a Spanish teacher at Washington High School, celebrates Día de los Muertos—also known as the Day of the Dead. This holiday has been portrayed in children’s movies such as “The Book of Life” (2014), and “Coco” (2017); as a result, it has been opened up to more audiences that don’t know much about it.
Ms. Danner Vera’s celebrations are very similar to traditional Halloween ones. “I always get dressed up, and go trick or treating every year in Glenmore,” she says. She likes to go out with her dogs and with friends. Also, she enjoys decorating her house with Halloween decorations and makes Jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night.
However, there are many differences between Halloween and Día de los Muertos. “Halloween is a tradition people would use to scare away evil spirits before dead souls come to earth. The day of the dead is a time to celebrate ancestors and for youngsters to learn about their ancestors,” says Ms. Danner-Vera. An important part of this day is the memory boxes that people make to honor their deceased loved ones. She assigns memory boxes to her students.
“The boxes have to do with honoring one of your ancestors, and the students have to ask about one person in their family,” she says. She goes on to explain that the holiday can be a hard time for students who have recently lost a grandparent, but also that it should be a time to remember these loved ones who passed away, and be proud of the family they’re a part of. Students also take the time to learn about their community and the cultures which they come from.
Ms. Danner Vera believes that the Day of the Dead is a day to celebrate her culture and is something to be proud of. She explains, “It makes me feel proud of my culture that I’m part of a great tradition, and culture. I’m glad I learned how to learn how to make different foods, and pass on traditions to my family.”