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A chance to remember

Event: Newhall memorial park hosts celebration of Day of the Dead holiday

Posted: October 31, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 31, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Vicente Tellez takes part in an Aztec traditional fire dance as part of a Day of the Dead event in the Catholic garden at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall on Sunday.

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The first ever Day of the Dead celebration at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary on Sunday was a successful, albeit subdued, affair, organizers and attendees said.

More than 50 people trekked to the top of the cemetery overlooking Sierra Highway on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — a festival that is celebrated in many Latin American countries, honoring the dead with music, food and dance.

Some attendees, like 17-year-old Alondra Magallanes, of Newhall, arrived with her face painted in a black-and-white pattern indicative of the tradition.

Most, however, did not.

“I honestly came here with the intention of seeing other’s people’s face-painting ideas,” Magallanes said, adding she was pleased to see the mortuary host the event.

“Everybody gets a chance to get together and celebrate life and death,” she said. “Usually, it’s a little more lively with a lot of decorations, where they set up altars with dedications for loved ones, sometimes with their favorite fruit put out.”

The Day of the Dead, widely celebrated in Mexico, offers friends and family a chance to pray for and remember loved ones who have died.

Those who attended Sunday’s inaugural local event sat in folded chairs arranged in rows in the cemetery’s Catholic Garden, Our Lady of Lourdes, listening quietly to classical music.

“We wanted to downplay it a bit the first year and see how it goes and how it’s received,” said Eternal Valley General Manager Rachel Vargas.

For Canyon High School Spanish class students Shannon Reid and Dean Jones, both 16, it was a chance to learn about another culture and, at the same time, research the event for a class assignment.

“I thought it was going to be a bit more festive,” Jones said. “This has a more depressing tone, a more mournful tone.”

The party kicked up, however, when colorful dancers in elaborate headpieces arrived in traditional Aztec costumes, some affixed with colorful arm-length feathers and others depicting jaguar-patterned masks of gaping cat’s teeth.

“We wanted to do something for the community,” Vargas said. “We wanted to give people a chance to visit Eternal Valley for a reason other than coming for a service.”

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