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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Garden feast to celebrate Dia de los Muertos

    Amy Phelps
    Amy Phelps / The Daily Wildcat “Fransisco and Fransisca” by the Devon Gables Rehabilitation Center displayed at the Tucson Botanical Gardens as part of the Dia de los Muertos celebration. The Tucson Botanical Gardens’ 2nd Annual Feast with the Dearly Departed will be on October 26 from 5-8pm.

    Originating in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is arguably one of Tucson’s oldest and most famous traditions; and this year Tucson Botanical Gardens is providing the community with another way to lure souls back to celebrate.

    In its second annual Feast with the Dearly Departed, Tucson Botanical Gardens is celebrating the holiday with food, sugar skulls, face painting and decorations to honor the deceased. The feast initially started as an opening for the center’s barrio garden, and now continues as a celebratory event for the whole community to enjoy, said Development Director Katherine Hougland.

    “This year, we decided to do the event again. Of course, our barrio garden has been open for a year at this point,” Hougland said. “That way, we could not only still celebrate the event and celebrate the wonderful Day of the Dead, but also invite people to come in and enjoy our space.”

    The gardens kept the event as similar to Dia de Los Muertos as possible as another way to celebrate the Mexican holiday and the changing of the season.

    “We have such a strong Hispanic community here; people have seen the All Souls Procession,” said Tucson Botanical Gardens staff member Melissa D’Auria. “The one we have here in Arizona is the largest in the country, so it was apparent that there is a lot of desire for that here because a lot of people celebrate and honor that holiday, so we wanted to be a part of it.”

    Feast with the Dearly Departed will offer a selection of traditional Sonoran foods, such as tamales and pan de muerto, as well as a skeleton display, decorative marigolds and luminaria designed to light the path for the deceased, said Hort Therapy Director Juliet Niehaus.

    “It’s an effort to welcome back those in their family and their loved ones who have passed away,” Niehaus said. “A lot of the components are opportunities to lure the souls of the departed back to celebrate, either by presenting them with their favorite foods on altars, lighting the way with luminaria [or] decorating the paths with marigolds, which seem to really draw the souls back.”

    Guests will also have the opportunity to decorate sugar skulls, part of a long-standing tradition of honoring the dead in Mexico.

    “Often, people decorate them to represent lost members of their family or people who have been loved,or just to celebrate the whole notion of people beyond us,” Niehaus said.

    In addition to the event, Tucson Botanical Gardens set up an “ofrenda” in its barrio garden earlier this week as a symbol of remembrance for people to come in and honor their lost loved ones with special items, photos or flowers.

    “It’s an opportunity for people to leave mementos and little thoughts of remembrance of people who have died,” Niehaus said.

    What: Feast with the Dearly Departed
    Where: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way
    When: Saturday, 5 to 8 p.m.
    Admission: $8 for adults, $4 for children; half price for members

    Follow Jessica Schrecker @JKSchrecker

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