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Town bringing Mexican tradition to Okotoks

Festivities surrounding the popular celebration, Day of the Dead, will take place at the Okotoks Public Library and Rotary Performing Arts Centre.
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Grisell Amaro poses with an example of a Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) offering to her grandmother on Oct. 25. Amaro is organizing a celebration of the holiday in Okotoks for November 1-2. (BRENT CALVER/Western Wheel)

A popular Mexican tradition is coming to Okotoks.

On Nov. 1 and 2, the Town is partnering with the Okotoks Public Library to host Day of the Dead-related crafts, interactive offerings and entertainment.

“The entire point of the event is to honour your loved ones,” said Jamie-Brett Sine, Okotoks education program specialist. “It won’t be completely traditional, but it will be interactive. We want everybody from the community to come and remember people who have been important to them in their lives.”

Sine is organizing Day of the Dead crafts for adults and children such as paper marigolds and papel picado in the Rotary Performing Arts Centre (RPAC) Nov. 1 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Nov. 2 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“A lot of what we’ll be doing is cutting elaborate designs out of tissue paper and doing floral design skeletons,” she said. “It originates from Mexican folk art.”

The library is hosting Day of the Dead-themed crafts throughout the week.

Both facilities are hosting interactive offerings in conjunction with the crafts, with the RPAC honouring loved ones who passed and the library paying tribute to pets that have passed away.

“We felt because we have so many families and children that come to the library that for some children the only experience they might have with death might be a family pet,” said Sarah Gillie, library assistant director. “It’s not a traditional interactive offering, but we felt this helps allow children to feel included in the events.”

Gillie said participants can bring a photo of their deceased pets to leave on the table.

The library will also play the movie Book of Life Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. in honour of the Day of the Dead.

“We have community members who use the library who’ve come here from different places around the world,” she said. “We just felt it was a good opportunity to showcase another culture. It’s showing support for Mexican families here in Okotoks and the Foothills County.”

Volunteer consultant Grisell Amaro, who was born and raised in Mexico, said Day of the Dead is a very old tradition.

“People celebrate the memory of the people who died in their life,” she said. “It’s about the people in your life that passed away.”

The celebration can look quite different, depending on who is celebrating it, said Amaro.

“It’s just that Mexico is a pretty diverse country so when we speak of the indigenous practices of the Day of the Dead we’re talking about something slightly different than the mainstream,” she said. “It’s a tradition, but it’s also something that has been evolving over the years.”

In recent years, it’s become a cultural phenomenon, Amaro said.

“Day of the Dead also becomes the opportunity when we reflect about our own mortality, about our own humanity, our own life,” she said. “Our life is not going to last forever so we might as well enjoy every moment. Celebrating life has become the mainstream.”

Amaro said Day of the Dead can be celebrated as a community, as a family or individually.

“I do it at home so my kids can learn about family members,” she said. “We do an offering and we place candles and pictures of our loved ones that died and their favourite foods and clothes. It’s to remember them and spend some time reflecting about them.”

The festivities will come to a close following music and entertainment in the RPAC Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. This includes Latin-American romantic music by Los Hermanos Carcamo, the Latin music group La Calavera de Frida and a singing and dancing performance by the Ireri-Mexican, Latino & Cross Cultural Society.

Tickets to attend the concert cost $25 in advance at the Okotoks Art Gallery or by calling 403-938-3204, or $30 at the door.


Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact
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