It’s not Mexican Halloween. It’s not even intended to be spooky. Día de los Muertos is often misunderstood in the U.S., but organizers of Henderson, Kentucky’s Day of the Dead celebration this year are hoping to educate the Tri-State on the meaning of the ethnic holiday and make Hispanic residents feel more at home.
This will be the second time Henderson’s Central Park will be decorated in festive embellishments for the city’s Día de los Muertos celebration. The first was held in 2019, with last year’s event being cancelled due to COVID-19.
Celebrated Nov. 1-2, Día de los Muertos — translated to “Day of the Dead” in English — is a Mexican holiday in which families welcome back the souls are their deceased relatives for a celebration with food and drinks.
Also known as All Souls Day, tradition says the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on Nov. 1, and spirits can rejoin their families for 24 hours.
After recognizing how quickly the Hispanic population had grown in Henderson County, Judge Executive Brad Schneider developed a committee through the Downtown Henderson Partnership after broaching the idea with Abraham Brown, director of Hispanic outreach at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Henderson, and Marcos Nicolas, owner of Mexican restaurant Tacoholics Kitchen.
“I thought maybe some sort of event that would be welcoming to our Hispanic citizens while at the same time teaching a little bit about Hispanic culture to other local folks would be fun,” says Schneider, who spent the early part of his childhood amongst a prominent Hispanic community in Tucson, Arizona. “It was hard to realize how many Hispanic families were living here because they were not well integrated into our normal lifestyles here. You didn’t see a lot of Hispanic folks shopping downtown, for example, and I thought that was something we could do better at.”
In line with the ethnic tradition, part of Central Park will be decorated like a real cemetery, and Schneider says folks can reserve a spot at a gravestone and decorate it like they would if they were in Mexico.
The event will also include a Mariachi band, Mexican food trucks, a children’s parade and crafts, sugar skull decorating, and face painting (though attendees will decorate face masks instead because of COVID-19).
Photos provided by Downtown Henderson Partnership.