OGDEN — Children kneel against a craft table, spreading lines of colorful glitter-glue onto their sugar skulls. The next table over, children color pages depicting a skeleton woman in a fancy, large, dress hat.
The children and their families are in the auditorium of the Weber County Main Library, 2464 Jefferson Ave., to participate in the branch’s annual Day of the Dead celebration Thursday evening.
The event’s coordinator, Nancy Funes, began the program by explaining the significance of the event and the symbols commonly used in its celebration, which gives people a chance to remember and honor their deceased loved ones.
In Latin America, the Dia de los Muertos celebrations date back to pre-Hispanic times. After the arrival of Europeans, the Roman Catholic Church blended the Mesoamerican traditions with the Christian All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which fall on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 respectively.
The library tries not to focus on the religious aspect of the holiday and focuses more on the cultural aspects.
Along with the stories and crafts activities, participants enjoyed Pan de Muerto, or Mexican sweet bread that is specifically decorated for the holiday.
Before the crafts began, Funes warned the participants that although the bread was good to eat, the sugar skulls — made of granulated sugar and held together with glue — were not.
“I’ll just tell you right now,” Funes said, “the sugar skulls, don’t eat them. They’re really gross.”
While other Weber County library branches have Halloween carnivals with witches and ghosts, the Main Library has for many years dedicated this time to the Dia de los Muertos holiday.
By celebrating Dia de los Muertos instead of Halloween, the Main Library staff feel they better serve the surrounding neighborhoods and their Latino residents.
“We have a lot of people in the community around here for which it may play a cultural significance,” librarian Deborah Smith said.
It also helps educate the community at large about the traditions celebrated by many Ogden residents.
“We look at it as a way to introduce people to different cultures,” Smith said. “It’s just another opportunity to show people in the community what they have.”
Dia de Los Muertos is one of the library’s annual events, along with the Holiday Open House on Dec. 24, Cinco de Mayo on May 5 and Day of the Book/Day of the Child at the beginning of April.
Funes began preparing for the event in April, ordering the arts and crafts supplies. Within the past week, she personally molded the sugar skulls to be ready for Thursday night.
Ogden resident Carmen Rodriguez came to the library with her family to check out some books, but when she heard of the event, she decided to take her two children and three nieces and nephews.
“This way the kids have a chance to learn about one’s culture,” Rodriguez said.
She likes the way the library handled the holiday, which she felt is very important.
“It’s the first year I came,” Rodriguez said, “but I think they did a good job.”
This is Funes’ second year organizing the event, and she was happy with the way it turned out. Only one thing would make her happier.
“I really like where it is right now,” Funes said, “but I would love to see a bigger turnout.”