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Reunite with lost loved ones.
Reunite with lost loved ones.
Photo by Bob Karambelas

Day of the Dead Florida 2016 Hits Fort Lauderdale

This year, Fort Lauderdale invites you to supplement your usual Halloween festivities with an event that harks back to Mexican traditions that are thousands of years old. Though it shares many familiar features with Halloween — costumes, makeup, parties — Day of the Dead is a holiday all its own. For the seventh year in a row, Fort Lauderdale celebrates Día de los Muertos throughout the city in the days following Halloween.

Day of the Dead is believed to be a time when a gateway between Mictlan — the ancient Aztec land of the dead — and the land of the living opens so families can reunite with lost loved ones, often with song and dance. Though seemingly macabre to those unfamiliar with the tradition, the event takes on a lighthearted tone as relatives and friends reminisce about those who have passed.

The celebration in downtown Fort Lauderdale is described by event organizers as a "creative spectacle honoring Mexican and Latin American traditions while generating modern interpretations that connect with a broad spectrum of demographics." Wednesday, November 2, festivities are planned as a way to facilitate gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember those they have lost. The fiesta, which began with 750 attendees in 2010, grew to include more than 10,000 participants in 2015 and is expected to see even more guests this year.

Event founder Jim Hammond says, "Our mission is to produce a signature event for all ages that maintains and respects the cultural integrity of international Day of the Dead traditions, providing a memory for the dead and a party for the living."

The festivities will feature an array of events for attendees of all ages. A 5 p.m., a gathering at Huizenga Plaza on Las Olas Boulevard will provide craft activities, including mask- and puppet-making, along with sugar-skull face painting for children. At the New River Inn, attendees will be able to view traditional altars of remembrance where sugar skulls, food, and artifacts have been set up in memory of those who have died. The main celebration will include giant skeleton puppets — 45 of them up to 19 feet tall — and 1,000 skeletons following mariachi musicians along Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale toward SW Third Avenue in a colorful sidewalk parade through the Himmarshee Historic District.

Whether the holiday is an observed part of your family history or you're simply looking for a diversion after the usual Halloween activities, Fort Lauderdale's Day of the Dead provides a fun, festive way to honor the departed by celebrating their lives.

Day of the Dead Florida
4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, November 2, in downtown Fort Lauderdale; dayofthedeadflorida.com. Admission is free.

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