Kate Cagle
Daily Press Staff Writer

For many Santa Monicans the end of October takes on a deeper meaning as they observe Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, to honor family members who have passed away.

Families observe the holiday at home by building a small shrine and then go out into the community for festivals and prayers.

The three-day holiday has grown in popularity across cultures through its iconic imagery: tangerine marigolds, decorated sugar skulls, and dancing skeletons.

The Mexican holiday begins Oct. 31 on All Hallows Eve, when the spirits of dead children are believed to come back to visit. The next day is All Saints Day, when adult spirits are believed to return to earth for one night.

Then, on Nov. 2 families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives to commemorate All Souls Day.

This year, the City of Santa Monica is embracing the tradition with eight free events throughout the next week, leading up to a celebration at Woodlawn Cemetery on Nov. 4.

“This is the sixth year the City of Santa Monica has hosted a community celebration to remember our ancestors at Woodlawn Cemetery,” Public Information Officer Constance Farrell said.

“This year, events hosted in libraries, parks, and schools offer the opportunity to connect with neighbors in all corner of the city to learn about the rich traditions of Dia de Los Muertos and to remember our kin through song, dance, beautiful art, pan de muerto and more to be discovered.”

Starting today, local high school students will display art at the Santa Monica High School Roberts Art Gallery at 601 Pico Blvd. The opening reception runs from 5 – 7 p.m. and showcases art from the local community.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, the Edison Language Academy will host its annual fall festival including homemade tamales, music, crafts and tours.

Students have been working all month to create altar displays. Visitors can purchase tickets at the festival for carnival rides, food, games and activities. The festival runs from 1 – 5 p.m. at the Edison Language Academy at 2402 Virginia Avenue.

Wednesday, Nov. 1, there will be sugar skull decorating at the Fairview Branch Library at 2101 Ocean Park Blvd. Free tickets are available 30 minutes before the program begins at 4 p.m. There is limited space so show up early!

Thursday, Nov. 2, the Main Library will screen the documentary Noche de Animas, which documents celebrations in Tzintzuntzan, Mexico. The filmmakers will be present to answer questions after the screening.

The bilingual event runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and is open to all ages.

Also on Thursday, the Pico Youth and Family Center will have performances and workshops. The event runs from 6 – 9 p.m. at 715 Pico Blvd.

On Saturday, Nov. 4, Familias Latinas Unidas hosts a celebration from 9 a.m. to noon at Virginia Avenue Park. All ages are welcome to visit the altar, enjoy traditional pan dulce and hot chocolate, and decorate a calavera mask at the Thelma Terry Building.

Woodlawn Ceremony hosts its Dia de los Muertos event on Saturday, Nov. 4 from noon to 3 p.m. with folklorico dancers from the Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company and musicians with Conjunto Jardin. Performer and educator Martin Espino will talk about myths, legends, music and poetry.

Artist Mario Mesquita will engage attendees in artful dialogue around cultural traditions and the ways people honor loved ones and their ancestors. Artist Aldo Cruz will have one of his altar creations on display.

The family owned Los Tamaleros food truck and The Churro Company will sell tamales, tacos, churros and agua frescas.

The cemetery is located at 1847 14th Street. Free parking will be available at the Santa Monica College lot located on the south side of Pico Blvd between 16th and 17th Streets.

An ADA compliant shuttle will run between the lot and the cemetery starting an hour before the event.