October 16, 2017

10 Ways to Experience Days of the Dead

Here's how to plan your visit to our Community Celebration on Sunday

By OMCA Staff

This year marks the 23rd annual Days of the Dead Community Celebration at the Oakland Museum of California on Sunday, October 22, 2017 from 12 to 4:30 pm. Over time, it’s become one of our largest events, and one of the East Bay’s most popular ways to celebrate Días de los Muertos. Whether you come every year or you are just beginning to learn about the traditions, here are 10 ways to experience this exciting day at OMCA.

1. Get tickets ahead of time.
Buy tickets ahead online to save up to $3 off each ticket—which you can use to buy some delicious agua fresca or pan de muerto. Even better, purchase an OMCA Membership to get express entry to the Community Celebration and to come back to the Museum for free all year long. 

2. Hop on BART.
We highly recommend taking BART. It’s the easiest, most convenient way to get here since we’re only a block away from Lake Merritt Station, and it’s an earth-friendly option to spare the air.   

3. Come ready to eat!
Local gourmet food trucks from Off the Grid will be parked on 10th Street and serving a range of Latino-fusion and other foods rooted in Mesoamerican flavors. Blue Oak café is also serving a special menu starting at 11 am, including Achiote Fried Chicken Tortas,Tlacoyos de Frijol y Requeson (stuffed blue corn masa), Elotes Esquites, and Grilled Steak and Nopales Salad. 

4. Save up for the Mercado.
In the Mercado, or market, you’ll find local makers and artists, plus tasty treats from Oakland’s Bakery El Sol. From Carlos Villez & Martha Viallanueva’s Days of the Dead-themed prints to handcrafted accessories from Marisol Catchings and Irma Aven, you’ll find something unique and special to take home for your own Días de los Muertos altar. Don’t miss Rachel Anne Palacios’ nichos (decorative boxes) or Norma McFaddan’s skeleton figures! The OMCA Store also offers unique apparel and artisan objects—be sure to get this year’s Days of the Dead t-shirt before they sell out!

5. Join the procession and reflect at the altars.
The ceremony opens with a procession led by spiritual leaders of the Días de los Muertos Committee to establish sacred space. This is a great way to center yourself, reflect on why you have come to the Celebration, and contemplate the past year—whether it’s through gratitude or an expression of loss. Begin at the directional altar, located in the Garden, which sets the tone for the whole celebration. The four directions of the altar honor elders, children, women, and men, inviting a spirit of positive energy, rejuvenation, and regeneration. This year, we’re honoring the artists of Metamorphosis & Migration: Days of the Dead as part of the ritual. After that, do a big loop through the Gardens and visit the community-created altars.

6. Take time to relax in Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown
If you find yourself—or the kids—needing time to unwind during the day, come relax inside this much-talked-about immersive exhibition. A larger-than-life sculpture by artists FriendsWithYou fills the gallery and glows with a rainbow of color—along with  meditative music, hammocks, bean bags, and cushions to lounge like the best. It’s a good respite to soothe you as you gear up for more Days of the Dead. (This exhibition carries an additional $4 charge to regular Museum admission.) 

7. See Metamorphosis & Migration: Days of the Dead.
This year, OMCA’s biennial Days of the Dead exhibition, curated by Guest Curator Evelyn Orantes, is inspired by the lifecycle of the Monarch Butterfly known for its mass migration each winter. Explore the journey of this butterfly that spans several generations through newly commissioned artworks and ofrendas by California artists, as well as rarely seen butterfly specimens from OMCA’s collection. What better way to round off your Days of the Dead experience? 

8. Paint your face.
Talented volunteer students from buildOn will be doing traditional and contemporary versions of calaca (skull) face painting. This is a living culture, and face painting is one way that people represent and engage with the tradition, which you can trace all the way back to classic Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada’s iconic images of calaveras (skeletons).

9. Savor the performances.
The Days of the Dead Community Celebration has two stages, so there’s a lot to see. The 10 Street Amphitheater stage will feature Aztec dance by Danza Huehueteol, mariachi, and more! To experience the full color of this tradition, don’t miss the Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno with a full ensemble of traditional dances and costumes. Throughout the day, enjoy tunes performed by Mariachi Los Halcones de Oakland, Los Compas y La Famila Peña-Govea, and Grupo de Arpa Barajas. You’ll have a lifted spirit after listening and dancing to their music all day!

10. Don’t miss the demos.
At the tortilla-making demonstration, you’ll get to experience the traditional way—not the easy way—to make tortillas from scratch, starting with the corn kernel. In the Mercado, check out a sugar skull demonstration, where kids can try their hand at decorating. Don’t skip hands-on activities like making a paper calavera mask, creating your own butterfly magnet, and more. 

The 23rd Annual Days of the Dead Community Celebration takes place on Sunday, October 22, 2017, from 12 to 4:30 pm at the Oakland Museum of California. See the full schedule and purchase tickets online today.