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Celia Jiménez here, wishing you a happy Day of the Dead. This is a solemn and colorful tradition in which people honor beloved relatives, friends and pets that are no longer living. It’s a tradition that has been part of Mexican culture for thousands of years—in fact it is such an important tradition that in 2008 UNESCO declared it a piece of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The tradition became more widely known in 2017 when the Disney movie Coco was released. The movie tells the story of Miguel, a talented Mexican kid who wants to become a musician, despite the fact that, for generations, his family has banned music. Miguel goes on an adventure to the land of the dead where he learns the real story about his family history. 

Day of the Dead is celebrated on Nov. 1, also known as All Souls Day and mainly dedicated to remembering children who have passed, and Nov. 2, the Day of the Dead. To honor deceased loved ones, people decorate the graves of those loved ones or build an altar in their homes. Each altar includes various components: Food (the deceased’s favorite), water (for thirsty ghosts), decorations (sugar skulls, papel picado, toys, candles and marigolds), shakers (to wake up the ghosts) and pictures to celebrate the people who have departed. 

Artisana gallery co-owner Adrianne Jonson has celebrated this tradition, which is the most important celebration of her family, in Pacific Grove with locals and tourists since she opened the gallery in 2008.

Jonson says her altar has three levels and each symbolizes something different. The first one is the Earth, the third one is the heavenly realm and the second level is where both meet: the human realm (where we are). For Jonson, the Virgin of Guadalupe is always on the top of the altar: “She's like the Guardian, that guards that heavenly realm.” And flowers are an important element at any altar too, “because you have to have life and things that are thriving and growing,” Jonson says.

For Jonson, the Day of the Dead is “a way of honoring all of the generations that came before us that made this time now possible, because without them, none of us would be here.”

Regardless of our background, the Day of the Dead offers an opportunity to remember and honor the people we have lost. People set altars at home, at school and in public areas where everyone can find a common ground and form a connection with people from different ages and backgrounds. 

Over the next couple days there will be different celebrations across the county to honor those who are no longer with us: 

Today, Nov. 1 at 6pm, Palenke Arts will host an event featuring food, music and danza folklórica. The free event will take place at the Oldemeyer Center at 986 Hilby Ave., in Seaside. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 2 starting at 5pm, the city of Gonzales will hold its first Day of the Dead celebration. The event will include Mexican food, a community altar and activities for kids. People are encouraged to bring photos for the community altar. It will take place in Centennial Park, 250 1st St., Gonzales.

Also happening tomorrow, Nov. 2, at Natividad Creek Park in Salinas, MILPA Collective and other local organizations will host two community altars, one for kids and one for adults. People can bring offerings from 5-9pm. For more information email leticiabhernandez@gmail.com

And also on Nov. 2, the Hospice Giving Foundation will celebrate Day of the Dead with an altar exhibition, music, handcrafts and games, starting at 6pm at Hartnell College. To get a ticket visit hospicegiving.org/dayofthedead

Finally, Artisana Gallery will hold a closing ceremony at which all the messages left on the community altar will be read. “We don’t want the messages to stay in the gallery,” Jonson says. “We want the messages to get out in the universe and to the ears that can hear them.” This will take place at Asilomar Beach, on the sid

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