Thousands celebrate Day of the Dead in Santa Rosa

Old Courthouse Square provided the setting for 'Dia de Los Muertos' on Sunday, the tradition of honoring the dead in a less-than-somber manner that includes sugar skulls, marigolds and the favorite foods of the departed.|

Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square was the setting for a two-day celebration over the weekend of “Dia de Los Muertos,” the tradition of honoring the dead in a less-than-somber manner that includes sugar skulls, marigolds and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed.

The Mexican tradition, translated as Day of the Dead, has become increasingly multi cultural with Filipino, Pomo Indians and others joining the festivities.

Family members get together to pray and remember their relatives and friends.

“The main purpose is for people to have the opportunity to honor loved ones. We are not scared of death. We think it is part of life,” said Cristina Briano, one of the organizers of the event.

The pungent marigolds are intended to entice the spirits. “We believe they are visiting with us,” she said.

It was the 14th year the event has been held in Santa Rosa. Dia de Los Muertos events are also big in Sonoma and Petaluma, and other communities in California and the Southwest.

In addition to photos of the deceased, with altars, votive candles and decorative skulls, a large papier-mache likeness of the Virgin of Guadalupe was set up in the courthouse gazebo.

Aztec dancers performed to loud pulsing drums and later in the quieter late of night guarded the offerings and altars.

Organizers estimated 2,000 to 3,000 in attendance over the weekend.

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