3 ways Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated, Dayton-style

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You could say Dayton’s Day of the Dead first caught on as soon as the Dayton Dia de los Muertos Celebration and Parade arrived in the community.

Gabriela Pickett, curator for the gallery at Missing Peace Art Space, has organized the parade each year and is credited with bringing the celebration to Dayton.

“The first year we celebrated the Day of the Dead in Dayton was in 2012,” she said. “I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to do this because the Hispanic population in town is not big and so I wasn’t very sure that it was going to catch on but it certainly did.”

“Once the celebration arrived, it stuck with Daytonians,” according to Pickett. “Now people have been requesting for us to do this every year.”

We asked her to tell us about the ways Daytonians have historically celebrated the Day of the Dead, and how it might be different from other parts of the country and the world. This is what we learned.

1. Dayton’s Day of the Dead is a mix of cultures.

The celebration, which originated in Latin America, became a wonderful blend of cultures once it came to Dayton, according to Pickett.

“One thing about the celebration in Dayton and in America is that people really love their pets and consider them to be like family,” she said, commenting on a cultural difference between the celebration in Latin America and in Dayton.

“That is something that is not very common in Mexico. But because we brought this Mexican tradition into the U.S.—once you mix the cultures together—it becomes a hybrid of what it was originally supposed to be, and I think that is okay. I think it is a great example of multiculturalism.”

2. Dayton’s Day of the Dead does not equal Halloween.

As far as the authentic Latin American Day of the Dead is celebrated, Pickett said “it’s very different from Halloween. Halloween is meant to be sort of spooky and scary. The Day of the Dead is not.”

A common misconception between the two celebrations is that the Day of the Dead and Halloween are both scary.

Pickett assures that the Dayton celebration aligns with this aspect of the Latin tradition each year. Skull painting is available at the Day of the Dead Celebration in Dayton and is not meant to scare you.

3. The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life both in Dayton and Latin America.

Pickett says that Dia de los Muertos is “a celebration of life. It is family friendly and when you see the different skeletons they are different from the Halloween skeletons because they are smiling and happy and they don’t have that mean look.”

“It is a day where we remember our loved ones who have passed away. We don’t remember the fact that they are dead or that they are gone, we remember what they meant to us in life and we remember and celebrate their life,” she said, citing another way that Day of the Dead is different from the Halloween celebration.

“In essence, the traditional culture says that this is a way for us to keep them alive as long as we remember and celebrate their lives,” she added. “That is how they are with us.”

Make sure you celebrate, Dayton style!
The Day of the Dead Parade starts at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 1 between Fifth Street and Jefferson in downtown Dayton. There will be floats, music, and plenty of people with sugar skull paint and decor.


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