This Friday kicks off the 5th annual Dia de los Muertos Celebration in Topeka. Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Topeka are organized by the Tonantzin Society. The organization’s mission is to preserve and educate Latino cultural heritage. The month long celebration includes six events all intended to educate the public and celebrate the Dia de los Muertos tradition of honoring the lives of deceased loved ones. Music, dance and bright colors are staples of all Dia celebrations. Beautiful alters, decorated with ofrendas, or offerings, are created to commemorate those who have passed.

It is believed that on November 1 and 2, the dead return to the living and enjoy the gifts left for them. Christina, of the Tonantzin Society of Topeka, said “the marigolds color and smell are believed to help our departed loved ones find their way back on Dia de los Muertos.  The importance of the marigold hearkens back to pre-Colombian times.”

She also explained, “the importance of the skull image dates back to Aztec/Mayan times. The skull was prevalent in Aztec architecture and as a way to remember departed loved ones. With the conquest of what is now known as Mexico - Catholicism incorporated the image with their ongoing conversion of the indigenous people. Sugar was in large quantity and it is believed the Catholic priests taught sugar art to the Aztecs.  The sugar skull is brightly decorated with the name of the deceased loved one often written in frosting on the forehead.  Sugar skulls are placed on the altars for Dia de los Muertos.

The month long celebration will include the following events:

Art opening
October 7
5:30-9 p.m., 837 ½ N. Kansas Ave.
Free

The 5th annual Dia de los Muertos art show will open at Haven Arts.

Street Fair
October 8
Noon-5 p.m., NOTO Arts District, 800 and 900 blocks of N. Kansas Ave.
Free admission; paid vendors available.

The street fair will be filled with family fun! There will be food and craft vendors plus many arts and crafts activities.  The Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre Company will present bi-lingual puppet shows. Additionally, there will be crafts for adults! The second annual Frida and Diego costume contest will also take place during this time.

Make your own Sugar Skull
October 16
Noon-3 p.m., NOTO Arts District, 800 and 900 blocks of N. Kansas Ave. *SPOTS ARE FULL as of Oct. 10.
Free, but pre-registration is required. Please email tonantzinsociety@yahoo.com and provide the number of children and adults attending. Instructors will teach attendees how to create sugar skulls and decorate them with royal icing, foils and candies. Additionally, attendees will have the opportunity to make a paper marigold. Adults will receive one large sugar skull and children get two small sugar skulls. There will be refreshments and music.

Make a mask – 18 and older
October 23
Noon-4 p.m., 905 N. Kansas Ave.
Free, but pre-registration is required by emailing tonantzinsociety@yahoo.com. *SPOTS ARE FULL as of Oct. 10.

Adults get a special treat during this 18 and over mask making workshop. Colored paper mache masks and embellishments are provided.

Vigil, procession and Aztec dance
October 28
6:30 p.m., 814 N. Kansas Ave.
Free

The Aztec Dance Grupo Huitzilopochti will bring the community together for a candlelight vigil and procession honoring Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos-themed fun at Kansas Children’s Discovery Center
October 29
Throughout the day; 4400 SW 10th Ave.
Admission to classes only is free. To stay and play at KCDC standard admission rates apply. 

From 10-11 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. Children’s Discovery Center will offer a free sugar skull making class. Each workshop is limited to 20 children accompanied by an adult. Contact the museum to reserve your space by emailing tonantzinsociety@yahoo.com.

The final night of Topeka’s Dia de los Muertos celebration is family night at the Children’s Discovery Center. The movie “The Book of Life” will be shown and activities begin at 2:30 p.m.

Originally published Oct. 6, 2016. UPDATED OCT. 10, 2016