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Henderson celebrates Dia de los Muertos, lives of loved ones

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Holy Name of Jesus Parish in downtown Henderson is celebrating Dia de los Muertos with an altar and special mass,  and the traditional Mexican celebration seems to be growing more commonplace, outside the church.

Members of the congregation started assembling an altar in the chapel four years ago. Director of Latino Ministry Abraham Brown says they missed having this tradition around, and they wanted to share the tradition with the wider community.

"The bright colors remind us that death is something that you don't need to be crying about," Brown said. "We need to be happy because our loved ones are in a better place."

The altar at Holy Name is adorned with photographs, sugar skulls, strands of marigolds, and ofrendas – or offerings of things that loved ones enjoyed on Earth – like a favorite food or a fancy bottle of tequila.

"Here’s my grandmother, she loved anise candy. We couldn’t find it here, but we bought a candle that smells like anise," Holy Name parishioner Ana Zamora said, pointing to a photo.

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Credit Cass Herrington / WNIN News
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WNIN News
In Mexican folklore, the salt represents the continuance of life after death, Toribio said. The sugar skulls are a reminder that death is an event for celebrating that loved ones are in a better place without suffering, Brown said.

Zamora says the smell makes her feel the presence of her grandmother, who died two years ago.

“She is an important person in my life," Zamora said. "I grew up with her, she was practically my second mother.”

Reina Toribio, another parishioner, has helped decorate a Dia de Los Muertos altar here for four years now. Toribio says back home, in Mexico, the all-day celebration is like having a day to visit with your deceased family member.

"You’re talking about them all day, about what they used to do, about who in the family looks like him," she said.

Toribio has lived in the United States for more than a decade. She says lately, it seems like the Mexican tradition is becoming more mainstream – with sugar skull decorations and costumes for sale at major stores, like Target.

"We’re getting there. I think Americans like to know us better, but there are others who aren’t ready to open the doors to us yet," Toribio said.  "But the Hispanic life is beautiful, all of the traditions we have are beautiful.”

The Church will hold a mass and altar blessing on Sunday, where parishioners can bring fresh ofrendas for their loved ones. 

And just down the street, the Henderson County Public Library is hosting an altar-decorating event this weekend, too. The library will give a free presentation to teens ages 12-19 on the tradition and a sugar skull crafting session on Saturday, Nov. 1.

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