The ISA presents their own Day of the Dead celebration

Students from across campus joined together to celebrate the Latin American holiday

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Students painted skulls for Día de los Muertos. // Photo by Keanna Pena '25

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a Latin American holiday that celebrates life and death. Instead of mourning loved ones who have passed, this two-day holiday allows individuals to celebrate and honor them. Starting on Nov. 1 and ending on Nov. 2, the Day of the Dead is full of lively festivities as a way of rousing the dead. On Nov. 2, the International Students Association (ISA) hosted their own Day of the Dead celebration. 

A table was set up in the Light Lounge of Seegers Union where community members could paint their own Calaveras Catrinas, or elegant skulls, which is the Day of the Dead’s most prominent symbol. These skulls are decorated to be bright and colorful, as a way of celebrating the lives of loved ones who have passed. The ISA also had a table full of pan de muerto, a kind of sweet bread, and hot chocolate, which is usually consumed during this holiday. Throughout the event, people of different cultures within the Muhlenberg community came to celebrate the Day of the Dead, either by eating the sweet bread, painting their own Catrina or taking a flyer the ISA provided with information about the holiday. 

“[It is] important for people to know about festivals and holidays that happen around the world.”

– Ruhani Singh ‘22

Ruhani Singh ‘22, the president of the ISA, wanted to have this event because she believes that it is “important for people to know about festivals and holidays that happen around the world,” and wanted to help these people “feel a sense of home.” As an international student herself, she knows how important it is to have one’s culture be represented and recognized. She believes that this is a “very beautiful holiday, and I wanted to bring it out to the Muhlenberg community.”

A common tradition was the creation of ofrendas (offerings/altars) by families to help guide and reunite their family members back to the realm of the living for the holiday. These altars are usually decorated with photographs of the departed, bright yellow marigold flowers and the favorite foods and drinks of the departed. One ofrenda was located in Egner Memorial Chapel.

For this event, Singh collaborated with Alejandra Cepeda Bàtiz ‘23 who explained, “The Day of the Dead has always been important to me, as it’s one of the few holidays that really connect me to my culture.” When asked about why she decided to have this event on campus, Cepeda Bàtiz explained that when she first came to Muhlenberg, “It felt weird to have such a personal and intimate family event on the altar of Egner Chapel, and I felt a little secluded to that, so I decided to hold an event that was more casual, one that could make people learn about it and experience the family aspect of the holiday.” In this aspect, Cepeda Bàtiz and the ISA succeeded, as there was a wonderful, homey atmosphere in the Light Lounge that night—from the Mexican songs playing in the background to the sweet aroma of pan de muerto wafting through the air. 

This helped in creating a welcoming environment where students of all cultures could take a seat at the table and paint their own Catrinas. With a wide arrangement of colors to choose from, students got creative with their skulls while enjoying some pan de muerto. The ISA wanted students to have something to take home with them from the event, as a way of celebrating the Day of the Dead.

Besides a bright and colorful skull, the main objective that the ISA and Cepeda Bàtiz want the Muhlenberg community to take from this event is to never take advantage of your loved ones, to acknowledge and remember them and that our loved ones are never dead until we have forgotten them. 

“The Day of the Dead has always been important to me, as it’s one of the few holidays that really connect me to my culture.”

– Alejandra Cepeda Bàtiz ‘23

When Cepeda Bàtiz would celebrate this holiday back home, her family would eat pan de muerto and hot chocolate as the offering, and spend the night talking about their ancestors and what connects them to their roots. When asked to describe this holiday in one word, the first word that came to mind was “happy.” She explained that while death is very sad, the purpose of this holiday is to remember our loved ones and honor them, and so she always felt excited around this time of the year. “Once I taste the bread, I know it’s the Day of the Dead, and getting to share that with people is really special to me,” Cepeda Bàtiz says. 

Keanna Peña '25 is an English and Creative Writing major with a minor in Dance. She is a managing editor for The Weekly and loves writing about student events on campus and sharing her poetry.

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