Praguers celebrate Mexican day honoring the departed

Photo: CTK

The Mexican holiday Day of the Dead brings together the world of spirits and the world of the living. Celebrants spend the days from October 31 to November 2 remembering their deceased ancestors and preparing offerings to present at cemeteries and shrines. The lives of the dead are celebrated with a big feast that includes traditional foods like sweet bread and candy skulls. For the second year in a row, this tradition has been celebrated here in Prague.

Photo: CTK
Far, far from Mexico, by a lake in the dark woods of Stromovka Park in Prague 7, adults and children gathered around altars with candles and skulls to celebrate the Day of the Dead. It was cold, blustery evening on Wednesday, but people perused the tables with traditional Mexican artwork, decorated their own sugar skulls and tasted the "bread of the dead."

For the second year in a row the Day of the Dead was celebrated in Prague. The event was organized by the Alfred Ve Dvore Theater and supported by the Mexican Embassy.

Dora Krskova, whose mother is from Mexico, helped organize the event.

"Everything is about death—so, a short puppet show, we have workshops so people can make can make for themselves Mexican altars or Mexican lamps with special paper and decorate the heads of the dead with special sugar cake and taste food and just spend time," she said.

Día de los Muertos
The holiday comes from an Aztec tradition honoring the memory of deceased ancestors, and is celebrated during All Souls and All Saints days, or November 1 and 2. Like the North American and British holiday of Halloween, Day of the Dead is infused with a spirit of light-heartedness and fun despite its focus on death.

"It's a combination of old Indian traditions and new day Catholic things," Krskova said. "This is the altar. The Mexican people on the 1st of November they prepare special things invite memories and the spirit of their dead to the house and they spend the whole day—the 2nd of Novermber--in the house. And at night with the favorite food of the dead and they go back to the cemetery and it's a big celebration, like a fiesta."

Day of the Dead is a popular national holiday in Mexico. It is also widely celebrated in Mexican-American communities in the U.S., and in the Philippines, Brazil and other Latin American countries.

Photo: CTK
In the days preceding the holiday, people clean the graves of dead ancestors and bring them offerings, which can include marigolds, the favorite food and beverages of the deceased and sugar skulls. On tables in Stromovka, photographs and small wooden skeletons were laid out next to Tequila and candy.

Jana Brabencova held a sugar skull she had painted with blood at one of the festival's workshops.

"It's I think it's special and it's nice to be in the dark park with the lights," she said. "It's poetic and it's interesting. And it's nice to draw skulls and meet interesting people. I like it. I like something different, so I came here."

The Latino community in Prague is extremely small, so it's festivals like these that can entry points for other communities to learn about the culture. For Lenka Jantova, the celebration was an educational experience.

Día de los Muertos
"I heard about it last year; I visited this action also last year," she said. "So I know it's a celebration of people who died. It's quite new information. I heard about it for the first time last year, I didn't know anything about it before. But it's really cold, so I can't enjoy it so much."

Despite the cold, a sizable crowd lingered around the tables and watched the puppet show. Dora Krskova says it's openness and curiosity that draws people to want to learn about a holiday that comes from so far away.

"We see that the Prague public wants to see it," she said. "A lot of people come with children and they like to know new traditions of other countries. And here also is the day of death on the second of November so this combination for them was nice."