Day Of the Dead

The Day of The Dead is a Mexican tradition of honoring loved ones that have passed away. However, the tradition was first practiced at Colby-Sawyer in 1997, brought to campus by Professor Randy Hanson. “I started it in part because I lost someone close to me,” Hanson said. He added that this tradition became popular among students because “the students say their culture doesn’t have many opportunities to honor their loved ones who have passed.”

The tradition started on campus as a small event held in the archives of the Colgate Cleveland Library, but over time it has been moved to Wheeler Hall for a larger venue. Over time, more and more students started helping with the event and it became even bigger, changing from an event that happened every other year to an annual event on campus.

There are many aspects of this tradition that are highlighted in the event on campus. The event this year included Mexican cuisine including taquitos, quesadillas, Mexican pizza, chips and salsa and Mexican soda. Not only was there food, but there was also dancing by the Hispanic Latino club. The club danced both the Bachata, which originated in the Dominican Republic, as well as the Cumbia, which originated in Colombia. Many people at the event joined in and learned the steps to these traditional dances.

The key part of the event was the beautiful altar that was created by both students and Hanson. Traditionally there is “an image of a saint, water and salt, and food and drink that the individuals being honored liked,” Hanson said. This year the altar honored Hanson’s grandparents, Leonard and Verona Hanson. Peanuts and cherry Poptarts were placed on the altar to honor them. Another individual who was honored on the altar was Brian Nelson, one of Hanson’s friends. To honor Nelson, moon pies, dingdongs and Pepsi were placed on the altar.

According to Hanson, the idea of this tradition is almost to “make fun of death ... to say that death is not scary nor the end, and to show that love is stronger than death.” Because of this idea, there are many decorations almost mocking death. Around the venue, many candy skeletons were made by students and put on display. There were also many skeletons around the venue playing instruments, wearing sunglasses and portraying silly characters.

This is not only a popular event on campus, but a popular tradition from Mexican culture. “I always send pictures to my family back home in Mexico and they love that the tradition has made its way up here,” Hanson said. “They think it is very respectful of their culture.” This tradition has been a part of Colby-Sawyer for many years and will continue for many years to come.