Dia de los Muertos: Sequim group celebrates Halloween as fundraiser

SEQUIM ­– While Halloween far outshadows it in terms of mass market appeal, the Mexican holiday of El Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, will not go unnoticed on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation, based in Sequim, will hold its fourth annual fundraiser Oct. 31 at the Sequim Prairie Grange.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes a dinner, silent and live auction, music and a program outlining the group’s work in Mexico.

Judith Pasco, Mujeres board chair, said the Day of the Dead holiday is “much nicer than Halloween.”

Similar, but not the same

The two are similar in that they both revolve around All Saints Day, but while Halloween marks the eve of the Christian holiday and has come to be associated with horror and trick or treating, El Dia de los Muertos spans both All Saints Day and the following All Souls Day.

Most importantly, instead of being afraid of the spirits of the dead, the Mexican holiday honors the departed with food, drinks and music. It really is a party for the dead, as they believe this is a time when the spirits return to visit their families, not frighten them.

“It’s a very healthy way of making death a part of life,” Pasco said.

Mexican families put up altars to the departed and fill them with things they enjoyed in life. They go to the cemetery to be with their loved ones and bring food, games and music.

“Cemeteries are a family place, not a scary place,” Pasco said.

Markets are filled with skulls made from sugar, which are decorated with the names of friends, then given as gifts.

Newspapers run fake obituaries, particularly of politicians, all in good fun.

“It’s a way of saying, ‘We’re all going to end up the same,’ of bringing them down to the same level,” she said.

Funds for education

The party Saturday will raise funds for the foundation, which travels to Chiapas, Mexico, every year to provide access to education for indigenous women. They have provided the women with laptops, solar lights, glasses and scholarships.

The auction will feature handcrafted items purchased from the women of the “Mujeres de Maiz en Resistencia,” a cooperative of seamstresses from eight villages.

Items include handwoven clothing, beaded Christmas ornaments, embroidered shawls, jewelry and ceramics.

Other items up for auction include coffee beans, a basket from the Sequim lavender growers and glass art by Melissa Penic.

Dinner for the event will be provided by Olympic Cellars co-owner Molly Rivard and Sequim chef Ankur Shah.

Pasco said it will be a vegetarian dinner, featuring “Aztec lasagne.”

Music for the evening will be provided by musicians Ron Munro and Steve Gilchrist on guitar, Wayne Shields on fiddle and Jenny James on bass.

Pasco said while the group realizes Halloween is a busy night, she hopes people will come to the event between trick or treating and attending Halloween parties.

“People have to eat dinner,” she said.

The Dia de los Muertos fundraising dinner and auction takes place at the Sequim Prairie Grange, 209 Macleay Road, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.

There is a suggested $15 donation.

For more information on the organization visit www.mujeresdemaisof.org.

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