While some people gear up for Halloween, others are getting ready for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). These holidays may seem similar, but their divergent origins will be explored in upcoming programs hosted by Irvine Ranch Conservancy.
First, in OC Parks’ Fremont Nature Preserve, discover the origins of Halloween by learning about the Gaelic festival of Samhain (pronounced SAH-win). Traditionally, the festival marked the end of harvest season, and was observed with a feast where ghosts of deceased relatives were welcomed. However, harmful spirits were warded off by wearing masks or costumes to confuse them. People would carve turnips into lanterns with faces, which were used to scare off these evil spirits. References to this holiday can be found in early Irish literature, and over time the celebrations of Samhain, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ day merged to form the modern-day Halloween.
While Halloween has evolved to a holiday that spurns ghosts of all types, deceased kin are key to celebrating Día de los Muertos. Carved pumpkins are replaced by decorated skulls as the main icon of the holiday, which actually spans two days: All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2. Spirits are welcomed home with elaborate displays of skulls, bunting and flowers, and ghosts are a welcome part of the celebration.
There are two activities coming up that explore Día de los Muertos. The first is on October 25, 7-9:30 p.m. in Bommer Canyon, part of the City of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve. Ages 10 and up are welcome to participate in the activity, which will include making your own decorated skull to take home. The second activity is in Black Star Canyon, and will include a short hike to listen for sounds of the local nocturnal animals, as well as a chance to make your own skull decoration. The second event is called “Celebrate Cultures in Nature: Día de los Muertos,” and will take place November 1, 7-9 p.m.
Pre-registration by 4 p.m. on the day prior is required for all participants – kids and adults alike. To find out about more about great activities, or to register, please visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.