Why We Celebrate the Day of the Dead

A Festival that Unites our Community

I’ve made Denton my home for the past 20 years. When I came to UNT in 1994 to study music, I could never have prepared myself for Denton’s charm and it’s eclectic & creative atmosphere. As I began to root myself in the music/art scene, I began to also root myself in the community. In 2009, with the help of many talented local artists, dancers, actors and musicians, I created ‘Cirque du Horror,’ a light-hearted musical cabaret show, fun for the entire family.

In 2011, I thought I would create a festival that highlighted this theatrical production, with the help of local businesses, we closed off Industrial St in between Mulberry and Hickory, and had a proper block party! Thinking more and more about Denton’s eclectic nature led me to ask the question, “why not create a festival for the community, a diverse and beautiful community of many cultures, where we can celebrate many things that the fall offers us?

A very important part of my ethnicity is being Mexican-American. My mother is a chicana, through and through, with her grandparents coming from the city of Aguascalientes. Growing up in South Texas, surrounded by both Mexican and Tex-Mex culture, the history of the Día de los Muertos holiday is important to me and my family.

It is also a holiday important to many families here in Denton.

Denton’s Day of the Dead festival is something not altogether Día de los Muertos, or Halloween, or the harvest. It's a little bit of everything.

A grassroots movement from the beginning, Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival now has a life of its own, with coffin races, pine box races, a twilight lantern parade, a community altar and a flight of souls ceremony, my Cirque du Horror musical, a pumpkin patch and costume contest. There's so much more, too: story telling, feature performances from Denton ISD schools, and of course, great food, drink, arts, and crafts.

Not only do we do our best to give back to the community by providing this wonderful event, but we also donate a portion of our proceeds to two of our favorite local charities : Serve Denton and Cumberland Youth and Family Services. Every year the goal is to donate more, and in 2024 we’re planning on raising at least $10,000 for charity.

This is Denton to me. A little bit of this, and a little of that, all thrown together with a dash of wonderful weirdness. And this festival is meant to bring the entire community together for a moment to enjoy this magical season.

All of this makes Denton’s Day of the Dead something you can’t find anywhere else, and definitely something that is very, very “Denton.”

What is Dia de los Muertos?

In modern-day Mexico, the first and second of November is the celebration of Dia de los Muertos, a time to remember friends and family who have passed. The deceased have divine permission to visit loved ones on earth and to share the pleasures of the living. To an outsider, this might seem macabre, but in Mexico, death is considered to be part of life and is portrayed with affection and humor by artists throughout the year.

Celebrations vary from region to region, but everywhere the dead are welcomed with ceremony and respect. Graves and altars in towns are adorned with candles, incense, and colorful flowers. No expense or effort is spared. Families gather in graveyards with offerings of food and drink, and in some places, brass bands serenade the dead with songs and music. Loved ones who have passed are never forgotten because once a year they take their place beside the living to enjoy the fruits and flowers of the earth.