OGDEN -- As the trick-or-treaters make their way from house to house tonight, and candles burn inside scowling jack o' lanterns, the dead return to the land of the living for a few days.
Weber State University instructor Susan Young said western European culture teaches people to keep the dead out. People hope to fool the deceased with costumes, so they are not dragged along to the netherworld.
In Latin America, however, this is a time of celebration. Traditionally, from noon on Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 people across Latin America, especially Mexico, celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
"It really serves in Latin America in honoring the recently deceased, establishing some kind of ritual connection with the afterlife and juxtaposing the humor of life and death," Young said.
Throughout the New World, celebrations and remembrances of the dead have gone on for centuries. When Europeans arrived, missionaries layered the native customs over Roman Catholic traditions.
"Really, in Mexico, through Catholicism," Young said, "you see it turned into an art."
That artistry and celebration of Dia de los Muertos will be honored throughout the area over the next few days.
For about a decade, Dia de los Muertos has been an annual event at Weber County Library main branch, 2464 Jefferson Ave., Ogden.
"The other branches have Halloween parties, and we focus on the Day of the Dead instead," assistant specialist Nancy Funes said. "We try to do a few different events focused to the Hispanic and Latino community, because we do have a large number of Hispanic and Latino families that come into the library, and they see what else the library has to offer and get to see it as a community resource."
Funes is organizing this year's event at 7 p.m. Wednesday, which will include activities and games such as La Loteria, a Mexican version of bingo, and traditional holiday snacks such as Pan de Muerto and Atole.
An altar will help participants remember those who have passed. Library specialist Carlos Montoya said the roots of the altar go back to pre-Hispanic times.
In past years, Montoya built the altar for the library. He tried to include traditional elements representing nature. Cut paper called Papal Picado represents air, a clay jar represents water, lanterns represent fire and fruits and vegetables represent earth. Sugar skulls and marigolds also figure prominently in the altars.
Traditional altars in homes or at gravesites also include food and beverages, items that once belonged to the deceased and Catholic iconography.
The items vary by region, Young said, but the idea is to provide items that loved ones enjoyed while alive.
Since Oct. 17, Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South, West Valley City, has had a Day of the Dead altar on display.
The altar is on display through Thursday and the center will have its eighth annual Day of the Dead altar display and community gathering from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wedneday. Weber State University will observe Dia de los Muertos as well with an altar from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Union Building Atrium.
The Hispanic Area Council invites the community to come and learn about Dia de los Muertos as well as bring photos of loved ones who have passed and offerings.
Organizers will distribute drinks and bread from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Afterward, the altar will be moved to the Diversity Center until Friday.
Along with the altar, the Hispanic Area Council will honor another Dia de los Muertos tradition. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, students will clean and decorate graves at the Ogden City Cemetery. A bus will pick up volunteers at 3:45 p.m. in front of the Browning Center.
By participating in these events, the community takes part in a celebration of the cycles of life, which also includes death.
"One day it will be you, too," Young said. "It gets everyone, rich and poor."