Dia de los Muertos at
Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside

Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, founded in 1878, is the largest of the 21 California missions. Now it is home to a community of Franciscan Friars.

Every year around Halloween time the Mission has a huge free festival for Dia de los Muertos (Mexican Day of the Dead). It’s the celebration of a tradition that is thousands of years old, where dead people can visit their living relatives and friends. This celebration that began in the Aztec culture is somewhat like Obon in Japan, Chuseok in Korea, or Qingming in China.
Praying
at a grave
Chalk grave markers
Families decorate tables called “altars” with pictures of dead relatives, their favorite foods and drinks, and other items that depict the relatives’ hobbies and activities during life so they can enjoy them again. Bakeries prepare traditional Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto) for the altars, decorated with strips of dough to look like bones.
An altar for remembering a person's life
The dead person's favorite foods
Day of the Dead bread (Pan de Muerto)
An altar for dead priests
The decorations always include Orange Marigolds (Cempasúchil), the flower the Aztecs used in order to remember their dead. The flowers’ strong fragrance helps wake the souls of the dead and lead them back to the altars.
Orange Marigold decorations
Face masks, people dressed as elder ancestors, and devils are important parts of the long history of this annual event.
Face masks
Painted faces
Child dressed as an elder ancestor
Devil
masks
It’s a time of happiness with music and dancing and celebration, not sadness, because tradition says that family and friends can visit with the souls of their dead relatives during this time.
Dancing couple
Children dancing
Girls dancing
A family dancing
In 2016, this free event at Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside is on Sunday Oct. 30 from 10 am to 4 pm:  www.mslrdiadelosmuertos.com
Mexican sweetbreads
Skulls for sale