Leave it to Hollywood to redefine an obscure religious holiday as a cultural extravaganza. Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is growing in popularity among Latinos everywhere, but Los Angeles and Hollywood have added their own special spin to the celebration since 1999 when this holiday took on new life at Hollywood Forever cemetery.

For genealogists who customarily stroll city cemeteries on a quiet afternoon, Hollywood Forever will be a startling change on Saturday, October 22 when the L.A. Day of the Dead takes place on the grounds of the city’s oldest memorial park.

Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated on November 2nd  by Latinos in Central and South American, Mexico, and throughout the United States. The holiday has its roots in ancient Mayan and Aztecan tradition evolving through Roman Catholic influence to become today’s modern Day of the Dead celebration.

Pre-Columbian Mexicans believed that the deceased continued to exist after death, resting placidly in Mictlan, the land of the dead.  On one day each year, these departed souls were allowed to return home to visit friends and family.  When Europeans arrived in Central American, they confronted this theology by adapting it to the Roman Catholic All Souls’ Day. Today, Day of the Dead, is an official Roman Catholic holiday celebrated November 2.

Celebrations vary by region, but typically include special foods, especially those favored by the departed, altars or shrines built in memory of the departed, sugar candy skulls, Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), and tissue paper banners.

Los Angeles Dia de Los Muertos will be held this Saturday, 22 October on the grounds of Hollywood Forever Memorial Park from 12 noon until 12 midnight and feature performances by Astrid Hadad and Ruben Albarran.  Tickets are $10 per person.

Highlights of the event include parades, food, music, theater performances, and viewing of the altars.  Prizes are awarded for the Altar Decorating Contest – 1st prize $3000, 2nd prize $2000, 3rd prize $1000.