New Haven celebrates Day of the Dead differently this year due to pandemic

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– The City of New Haven is celebrating the Day of the Dead, a Latin American tradition honoring loved ones who passed away. That includes a lot more people than usual this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteers spent Monday morning creating a Day of the Dead altar in the lobby of New Haven City Hall.

“We are commemorating the people who have passed away, our loved ones,” said volunteer Kirina Xantal, speaking through a translator.

It is a tradition in Latin America and, unfortunately, a lot more loved ones have recently passed away than in most years.

“So this altar, especially this year, has a special significance because so many have died, disproportionately Hispanic and African-American members of our community,” said volunteer Rebecca Vergara.

Members of the community contribute photos or other items to represent those lost. It may sound sad, but this is not a day of mourning.

“Despite losing a lot of lives this year, this altar is also to celebrate their lives,” Xantal said. “So it’s not just about death, it’s about celebrating the life itself, as well.”

This is the tenth year in a row New Haven has commemorated the Day of the Dead. There is a usually a parade and face painting. Things will have to be different this year because of the pandemic. This is also an election year, so politics factor into this Day of the Dead.

“The other message is, we will continue fighting for the living, for the people who are still alive, and basically we are inviting everyone to vote against hate,” said Unidad Latina en Accion Director John Lugo.

The plan is the altar will stay there for a few days and members of the public are encouraged to bring a photo or other memento of a lost loved one and make it part of this display.

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