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Recently, we were all immersed in the sights, sounds and tastes of Halloween.  It’s a rite of passage that really signals the presence of fall, and kicks off the inevitable start of the holiday [spending] season. I ran out of time and creativity to come up with a costume this year, but I have a terrific idea for one next year.

But right on the heels of this festive, mostly child- oriented activity, another observance seems to be gaining momentum in the United States. El Día de la Muertos or the Day of the Dead is usually celebrated on November 1, although observances continue through November 2, or even later.

On our campus, for instance, the Hispanic American Student Association sponsored the first such festival on campus and, according to our student newspaper, it seemed to be a success.

What exactly is the Day of the Dead about?  Well, the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center has an excellent site explaining the origins of this holiday—including instructional resources for teachers.  A Latin American tradition, this celebration involves the entire family in paying tribute to loved ones who have died.  These tributes include photos of departed family members, special foods, music and masks.

Now, what is fascinating is how these type of festivals are spreading across the United States, according to reports on network television,  a leading business magazine, and local newspapers in such cities as Baltimore and Detroit.

This trend reflects more than, simply, new evidence of the growing presence of Latino communities in the United States.  The fact that such celebrations are spreading outside of the hidden pockets of  Hispanic homes means that cultural transformation is happening.

Some might criticize these celebrations as some form of ancestor worship, or worse.  I look at it as way to turn grief into something that affirms the continuity of life and love.  If you have lost a loved one, you know that Death rarely comes pretty, or conveniently.  I rather like the idea of participating in a celebration of life, instead of staying captive to the circumstances of someone’s death.

So, next year watch out for my really cool Halloween costume.  And if you hang around, you just might see me getting into the spirit of something new.