Today in San Francisco: it's my friend L-word's birthday.
Also, this little thing is happening:
From the site:
Over 15,000 people will gather in the Mission to participate in the 26th Annual Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead Procession & Altars. Through art, music, and ritual this event honors our ancestors and celebrates the vitality and richness of today's community. While the ceremony remains true to its Latino roots, the San Francisco procession actively encourages participation by people of all origins.
Bring candles, photos, food, or something that reminds you of a person that has passed away. The altars are community art installations that are intended to change as each person adds something to the hearth.
You can also observe the building of the altars today, from noon to 5 pm at Garfield Park.
"After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."
A short explanation of the tradition can also be found in the "History" section of the aforementioned website:
The Day of the Dead is a unique festival that is the result of 16th century contact between Mesoamerica and Europe. Conceptually, it is a hybrid, owing its origins to both prehispanic Aztec philosophy and religion and medieval European ritual practice. Ceremonies held during the Aztec summer month of Miccailhuitontli were mainly focused on the celebration of the dead. These were held under the supernatural direction of the goddess Mictecacihuatl.(1) Both children and dead ancestors were remembered and celebrated. It was also during this month that the Aztecs commemorated fallen warriors. According to Diego Duran, a 16th century Spanish priest, the Aztecs would bring offerings of food to altars in honor of the dead. They would also place small clay images that were supposed to represent the deceased on these same altars. (2)
When the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, they brought the Christian Holiday of All Soul's Day with them. This was a Roman Catholic holy day commemorating the dead in general as well as baptized Christians who were believed to be in purgatory. Spanish priests were quick to see a correlation between the Aztec and Christian celebrations so moved the Aztec festival from summer to fall so that it coincided with All Soulsâ day. This was done in the hopes that the Aztec holiday, which the Spaniards considered to be pagan, would be transformed into an acceptable Christian holiday.
The result of this cultural blending is an event where modern Mexicanos celebrate their ancestors during the first two days of November, rather than at the beginning of summer. While this modern festival has Christian components, it still maintains its indigenous Native American ones.
(1) This deity's name means "Lady of the Dead." She was the female counterpart of Mictlantecuhtli, the lord of the underworld.
(2) See, Diego Duran, Book of the Gods and Rites and The Ancient Calendar. Translated and edited by Fernando Horcasitas and Doris Heyden. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press .