For Mukilteo 6th-graders ‘Day of the Dead’ is ‘weird, interesting’

MUKILTEO — Richard Molnar had never seen the things he did Thursday in his school’s “Day of the Dead” display.

The sixth-grader had never seen decorated skulls made of sugar nor the different kinds of bread on exhibit in the library at Olympic View Middle School.

“I find it very interesting how they celebrate and mock death,” said Richard, 12. “I find it weird, but very interesting.”

“Day of the Dead” is a Mexican celebration where families remember their deceased relatives with displays and by visiting their tombs. It is believed that on Nov. 2, the souls come back to spend time with their families, to enjoy their favorite foods and the things they had and did when they were alive.

That is why people make “Altars of the Dead.” The displays at the library were decorated with colorful cloths, Mexican sweet bread, candy and fruit.

For Eunice Ko, 12, the most interesting aspect was how the holiday resembles the way her Korean family remembers their dead. Her family has a tradition to bring flowers to the tombs once a year, she said.

“I think it’s pretty cool that the two countries have something in common,” 12-year-old Eunice said.

It was the first time the school celebrated “Day of the Dead.” The goal was to teach the children about the cultural celebration, and help Hispanic families become more involved with the school.

“We are making an effort to reach out to our different parts of the student population,” Principal Devin McLane said.

Olympic Middle School has seen its Hispanic population grow in recent years. There are about 130 Hispanic students between sixth and eighth grade. The school has a total student population of 780.

Its Hispanic enrollment is only surpassed by the enrollment at Voyager and Explorer middle schools in the Mukilteo School District, McLane said.

The display was organized by writing and Spanish teacher Margarita Munoz and volunteer Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, who is also helping the school as a liaison to Hispanic families.

The idea came after a meeting with Hispanic families two weeks ago, Altamirano-Crosby said.

“This is just the beginning,” Altamirano-Crosby said. “We want to integrate the kids to the schools more so they can have more self-confidence and be better students.”

The displays were created by Hispanic students and their parents earlier this week. Other students were given the opportunity to bring a picture of someone who has passed away to add to the display. The displays are set to be taken down today.

For sixth-grader Monica Mondragon, the displays have helped her reconnect with family and celebrate a tradition that had slowly been forgotten since her family moved to this state five years ago.

Monica, 11, remembers the big displays and celebrations in Michoacan. When her family moved, Halloween started becoming a more important holiday. She is now planning to bring pictures of her two granddads and an uncle to the display as a way to honor them. Meanwhile, her dad has decided to send flowers to relatives back in Mexico, she said.

Her family can still celebrate the holiday even though they are living in another country, she said.

“We can still remember my grandparents and what they gave us so we can have a better life,” Monica said.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.

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