Golden Library patrons prepare sweet offerings for Día de los Muertos

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As people in Mexico and other countries prepare to celebrate and honor their dead Nov. 1-2, Jackeline Ruiz hopes to offer a taste of that tradition for Jeffco Library patrons.

On Oct. 12, Jeffco Library and the Denver-based Museo de las Americas cohosted a Día de los Muertos sugar skull activity at the Golden Library. The activity will be at other Jeffco Library branches through Oct. 30.

Ruiz described how Día de los Muertos originated in Mexico thousands of years ago and has evolved and spread to other countries over the centuries. While celebrations look a little different from place to place, Ruiz emphasized how it’s about taking time to honor deceased loved ones. Sometimes that involves feasting, singing, dancing and creating sugar skulls called Calaveras.

Ruiz told the 20 participants at the Golden Library that each sugar skull is meant to represent someone who’s died, and is painted with designs specific to that person. For instance, she described making one for her grandma with red lipstick and yellow flowers, which were her grandma’s favorite.

Ruiz, who’s from Venezuela, said she didn’t grow up with the holiday, but has started celebrating it since moving to the United States four years ago. It’s become a healthy way to talk about death without feeling sad or intimidated, she described, adding helps start conversations with children “about what passing away means.”

“It feels super weird at first,” she said of celebrating the holiday, “ … but you connect with other people about it.”

For the activity, Ruiz brought premade sugar skulls along with paints and sequins to use for decoration. Both children and adults enjoyed customizing their sugar skulls, although the youngsters’ first instinct was to eat the sugar rather than decorate it.

Melissa Geinitz, who brought her two children and one of their friends, said they signed up for the activity because it’s “a lovely way to celebrate those we’ve lost.”

Geinitz described how her family frequents the children’s and family programming at the library, saying, “It makes the children want to be in the library more often.”

Kristin Ludwig, her 5-year-old son Nolan, and their friends also enjoyed painting the sugar skulls. Ludwig said she and Nolan each made one to honor her mom, who died two years ago from cancer.

She appreciated how Día de los Muertos traditions are about “celebrating and connecting with loved ones we’ve lost.”

Ludwig also thought the Oct. 12 sugar skulls activity would be an opportunity to talk to Nolan more about his grandma. In general, she added, it seemed like a more approachable way for children to connect with loss.

As the holiday gains more traction in the United States, Ruiz hoped to see Coloradans embrace it. She invited anyone interested to visit Museo de las Americas — the Museum of the Americas — on Nov. 4 for a Día de los Muertos celebration.

For more information, visit museo.org. To participate in the sugar skulls activity at another Jeffco Library branch, visit jeffcolibrary.org.

golden, library, sugar, skulls, dia de los muertos, day of the dead, sugar skulls, calaveras

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