Murphys to host ‘Day of the Dead’

Written by Mike Morris, The Union Democrat October 31, 2013 11:30 am

The “Land of the Skulls” will celebrate the “Day of the Dead” on Saturday.

Spirits of deceased loved ones will be honored during “Dia de los Muertos” festivities in Murphys from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Mexican holiday welcomes back the ghosts of friends and family with altars, skull-painted faces and candle-lit processions. 

And what better place to honor the dead than the county of Calaveras — the Spanish word for “skulls.”

“I heard that Calaveras has the distinction of being the first place the ‘Day of the Dead’ was celebrated in California,” said Victor Reyes-Umana, whose wife, Evelyn, started the celebration in Murphys four years ago.

A Sacramento-based Telemundo film crew is expected to record Saturday’s event for the Spanish-language television network, Reyes-Umana said. 

Participating businesses and wine tasting rooms will offer authentic cultural art, food, live music and themed altars. Skulls made of sugar will even be used as decoration. 

“The altars can be very touching,” said Michelle Plotnik, vice president of the Murphys Business Association. 

The event will feature children’s activities at the Murphys Library and face painting along Main Street. A “Catrina and Catrin Dress Contest” will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the Black Bart Playhouse followed by a candle-lit procession to St. Patrick’s Cemetery.

Those wanting to participate in the procession should meet near the corner of Main and Algiers streets at 5:30 p.m. Participants are asked to bring a flashlight, wear warm clothing and be mindful that they will be visiting a Catholic cemetery.

“It’s a very quiet, respectful process,” said Murphys resident Dan Loving, who walked in last year’s procession. 

Hot chocolate and pan de muertos, a type of sweet bread, will be available for purchase after the ceremony. Most activities are free.