Natalie Winn performed at last year's Dia de los Muertos event. [Photo courtesy of Rhiana Medina]

There’s nothing spooky intended about a mock graveyard, or altars decorated with replicas of skeletons or skulls – those symbols are used to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, a holiday remembering loved ones who have passed on.

Celebrated on Nov. 1, Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) originated in Mexico, though it’s celebrated throughout Latin America, and increasingly, in other cultures throughout the world. The custom blends indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism, the religion of the Spanish conquistadors. The holiday falls on the date of two minor Catholic holidays – All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.

The Moab Valley Multicultural Center is hosting its fourth annual Dia de los Muertos celebration on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the multicultural center, 156 N. 100 W. The public is invited to join the festivities.

It is believed that the spirits of loved ones return on that day, and families prepare for their visit by creating altars with things to welcome and make the spirits happy. It is also believed the deceased would rather have their lives celebrated than mourned, and thus, the day is celebrated with food, drink and activities the dead loved ones enjoyed in life.

“Loss is something that brings everyone together,” said Rhiana Medina, Moab Valley Multicultural Center director. “Dia de los Muertos is a way to honor those lost loved ones. It’s a sacred event.”

A mock graveyard will depict altars and tombs ― both human and pet ― decorated in a traditional style with items that were important to the deceased.

Moabites were invited to reserve altars to decorate and commemorate their own lost loved ones. Altars are typically decorated with candles, flowers, and photographs – and objects important to the deceased.

The four-hour celebration Saturday will include children activities, face-painting, live music performed by local band Haley and the Tom Cats, and even manicures.

“It’s a fantastically fun event,” Medina said. “There’s something for all ages.”

A dance performance by participants in the recent Dancing with the Moab Stars (another multicultural center fundraiser) will also take place, featuring primarily Latin-style dances such as the tango and cha-cha.

Dia de los Muertos is the multicultural center’s major fundraiser. It’s free to attend, with authentic Mexican food for sale, including posole, chicken mole, tacos and tamales, said multicultural center volunteer coordinator Katlyn Keene. Last year’s event drew 400 people, she said.

“That was our biggest attendance so far,” Keene said. “We hope to do the same this year.”

The multicultural center’s mission is “building bridges where language and culture are barriers,” Keene said.

Incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2007, the center’s programs include various types of youth education, interpretation and translation services, language and life skills classes, and advocacy and support in the form of crisis response and referrals, plus emergency food and medical relief.

For instructions on making food and art projects associated with Dia de los Muertos, visit www.moabvalleymulticulturalcenter and click on “educational resources.”

For more information about the center and its various programs visit the web site, or call 435-259-5444.

Dia de los Muertos’ a fundraiser for multicultural center

What: Dia de los Muertos, fourth annual fundraiser for the Moab Valley Multicultural Center

When: Saturday, Nov. 1, 2-6 p.m.

Where: Moab Valley Multicultural Center, 156 N. 100 W.

Cost: Free admission; Mexican food for sale