Sunday, October 26, 2008

El Dia de los Muertos---Una Fiesta Espantosa!

In my classes on Friday and Saturday, we embarked on a journey 3,000 years into the past, taking ourselves back to an ancient Aztec tradition. As many of you probably know, there is a holiday in Mexico that is often (and sadly) confused with Halloween. For you gringos, it's known as "The Day of the Dead." Though it may sound rather grim, put all your assumptions aside and prepare to be enlightened! When the Aztec goddess, Mictecacihuatl died, this event was created in her honor. She is also known as the "Lady of the Dead" or Catrina. On this day, people honor their loved ones who have passed on by gathering together as a family, cleaning and decorating graves, creating altars in their homes dedicated to those passed on, and celebrating the life they lead with dancing, singing, and lots of great food! The most famous image associated with the Day of the Dead is a smiling skull, representing the joy a spirit feels when it can move on to the next stage in his/her existence. Some actually believe, that these happy spirits will come to visit them on these couple of days in which they're allowed to once again enjoy their earthly pleasures. When the conquistadores, plundered the Aztecs, they saw some merit in the holiday and added some catholic touches. Today, those of many cultural and religious heritages take part in this great celebration of life.

My students made "ofrendas" for people in their lives who had passed away. Though most were family members or homies, I also had some tributes to Selena, Heath Ledger, Bernie Mac, and other famous figures. I was impressed with the great job they did. They also brought in the traditional "pan de muertos" (Bread of the Dead) and horchata and all sorts of authentic treats. We had a great time. The actual days of celebration are the 1st and 2nd of November (at which time Brent and I hope to have our own little celebration) but we're currently on fall break, so I had them do the projects before heading off on their respective vacations and whatnot. Here are some pictures of the little tributes they created and my own life-sized "ofrenda" to my paternal grandmother, Betty Dunn. And yes, I burned candles and incense in a classroom full of teenagers.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Denver & Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

We've been visiting a lot of gardens lately! First, we went to the Denver Botanic Gardens on free museum day, then enjoyed the Cheyenne gardens last weekend while in town, and yesterday I volunteered at the Pumpkin Festival in the Chatfield Botanic Gardens! Unfortunately I have no pictures of the latter. It was so much fun! Acres and acres of land were covered in cornstalks and pumpkins, and when they opened the gates, throngs of people swept in with their little kids dressed in costume (in spite of the drizzly weather). Each one eagerly searched for the perfect pumpkin. We are thoroughly enjoying all the colors of fall and the festivities that come along with it!