While some celebrations contain a single layer of straightforward meaning or two, there are those that are a scintillating study in opposites, with happiness and sadness playing roles, and the merry and the macabre.
Few festivities represent this delightful dichotomy as vivaciously as Día del los Muertos, an autumntime remembrance of those who've gone before us. But the remembrance isn't built around veils and sorrows and hankies and tears, or at least not solely; robust songs and expressive folk dance and colorful calacas costumes are at its frequently happy and always respectful heart.
It's a collective heart that will be thumping in many places around Southern California as we approach All Souls' Day, or Nov. 1. But the celebrations are starting well over a week ahead of the actual holiday, so pin some flowers into your hair, skeletons of SoCal, and make for...
Grand Park: Downtown Día de los Muertos Altars + Art flourishes, florally and with familial spirit, at the City Hall-close expanse from Saturday, Oct. 24 through Monday, Nov. 2. "(M)ore than 40 altars and art installations" will be displayed, in addition to sculptures that are very much related to the ethereal occasion. There are tours, too, if you want an in-depth moment with the picture-and-memento-laden tables.
Olvera Street: One of our city's oldest thoroughfares marks the very old holiday with several days of workshops, altars, Aztec dance performances, mariachi music, and a nightly Novenario procession through the Day of the Dead observance. That observance is set to last at El Pueblo from Sunday, Oct. 25 through Tuesday, Nov. 3. Check the schedule for specific happenings you might want to join.
Hollywood Forever: The costuming is elegant and elaborate, the performers are renowned -- hello, Lila Downs and other wonderful singers and dancers -- and the setting is a tall-palm'd, mausoleum-close cemetery. Many altars will dot the grounds of Hollywood Forever during the Saturday, Oct. 24 gathering, which lasts from noon to midnight. Calacas dress is seen throughout, so find your cosmetics kit, your shawl, your tuxedo, your skeleton-sartorial best.
San Pedro: Make for the downtown area on Sunday, Nov. 1 for a caboodle of songs and sights and people strolling in their seasonal finery. There shall be "an open-air exhibition of community altars," so plan to spend a few minutes with each. A kid-centered area, full of craft-making opportunities, will also be in the spirit of All Souls' Day.
Bowers Museum: The Santa Ana-located cultural institution will brim with mariachi joy and ballet folklorico and sugar skulls and artist George Newnam's Casa de las Calaveras, which will be located on the second floor of the Kidseum. Dates? Don your after-life-ready ensemble and dance your way over to the celebration on Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1.