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Disneyland Article
10 Things To Know About Day Of The Dead Celebrations

Rancho del Zocalo
Orange County Register
Marla Jo Fisher
September 13, 2018
September 21, 2018
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10 things to know about Disneyland's Day of the Dead celebrations

Disneyland has ramped up its celebration of Dia de Los Muertos - or Day of the Dead - in the wake of the success of last year's hit movie on the subject, "Coco," which features a small boy in search of his departed family.

Dia de Los Muertos evolved from an ancient Mesoamerican tradition that celebrated the return of souls for one day from the underworld. Later, when Latin America was Catholicized, this tradition was tied to the calendar of the Nov. 2 Christian All Souls Day.

These days, between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, believers welcome back the souls of their dearly departed with special flowers, including marigolds, and altars laden with their favorite foods and pictures. In Southern Mexico, sugar canes also decorate the altars (or "ofrendas," in Spanish). In some communities, people decorate graves and sit out all night with their deceased loved ones.

Here are 10 things you want to know about the 2018 Disney celebration:

1. Both parks at the Disneyland Resort have Day of the Dead commemorative areas that will be in place until Nov. 4. The one at Disney California Adventure is the more extensive.

2. This Disney event only takes place in Anaheim, not at any of the other Disney parks. The celebration's origins are based in Latin America, and Anaheim and surrounding areas have many first- and second-generation immigrants who are acquainted with this festival. Although the popular conception is that it's a Mexican holiday, Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated in many regions.

3. The female Day of the Dead skeleton you'll see with the big hat and fancy dress has an important role in Mexican history. When Mexico was fighting for its independence from Spain, a Mexican journalist and printmaker named Jose Guadalupe Posada published a series of etchings around 1910, including one with the skeleton called a calavera. Famed muralist Diego Rivera dubbed her "La Catrina" and put her in one of his murals. She became a Mexican national symbol and is often seen in resplendent costumes during the Day of the Dead festivities.

In Disneyland

4. Check out the display at Zocalo Park in Frontierland where oversized sculptures, marigolds and paper banners known as papel picado provide some much-needed color to the area. Rancho del Zocalo restaurant next door offers Mexican food, in case you're in the mood. (By the way, the word zocalo means "town plaza" in Spanish.)

In Disney California Adventure

5. The main festivities for the holiday revolve around Paradise Gardens in Disney California Adventure, where they've set up a Plaza de la Familia that's fun and interesting. There's a craft area where kids can make free masks and a commemorative wall where anyone can write a memory of a loved one and hang it up to create a festoon of memories.

6. The small, round "The World of Coco" indoor pavilion explains the meaning of Dia de Los Muertos through the lens of the movie, "Coco." In the 2017 film, the 12-year-old protagonist, Miguel, builds an altar in honor of his late musical hero. It's pleasant to see a space like this used for something other than the usual kind of Disney merchandising.

7. Several times a day, visitors can see a show in the plaza called "A Musical Celebration of Coco" that cleverly uses life-sized puppets to depict Miguel and his villagers. This colorful show includes folkloric dancers in colorful costumes and the Grammy-award-winning local group, the Mariachi Divas.

8. Take a photo in front of some colorful winged paintings or the wall-sized Mexican Tree of Life in the Plaza de la Familia, which is covered with paper mache La Catrina figurines.

9. Check out the Mexican food menu at the Paradise Garden Grill, including the traditional Día de los Muertos Pan de Muerto, Mole Verde con Pollo, Pan Dulce Conchita and a special "Coco" cake. Note that the Pan de Muerto is a nod to the traditional Mexican bread of the dead, which has special figures baked into it.

10. In Cars Land, Ramone's House of Body Art has an altar set up to honor the gone-but-not-forgotten Doc Hudson.
Restaurants Referenced

Rancho del Zocalo

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