Lisa Velasquez of Putnam Valley decorates a four-year-old’s face
CARMEL – A gathering at the historic Putnam Courthouse, a march along Gleneida Avenue past the statue of Sybil Ludington and a celebration at the Reed Memorial Library in Carmel Sunday highlighted Putnam County’s annual Day of the Dead ceremony.
Day of the Dead focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who died while at the same time supporting their spiritual journey.
Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased by using sugar skulls, marigolds and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed as well as visiting graves bearing gifts.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years. The holiday has spread throughout the world, being absorbed within other deep traditions for honoring the dead.
Under the direction of Norma Pereira of Carmel, the celebration was brought to Putnam County to bring all religions and ethnic backgrounds together “in order to share our love for those who have passed on and are resting in eternal peace.”
At a handmade altar created by Arturo Torres of Lake Carmel, crosses stood side-by-side with a menorah while photos of those who have left the earth were prominently displayed.
Library Director Jeanne Buck told the 100 attendees, “Our Reed Library has been open for 100 years. This is our second Day of the Dead ceremony. It won’t be our last.”
Amidst colorful dancing and spiritual songs performed by professional artists, Pereira explained that the Day of the Dead serves as a “reunion of dead relatives with their families. The souls of the dead return each year to eat, drink and be merry. The holiday takes away the fear of death as it represents the circle of life because everyone is equal in the end.”