Homer’s traditional end-of-October celebrations in the form of trick or treating and haunted houses were joined this year by a new event — a celebration of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
Evangelina and David Briggs, owners of Homer Truffle Co., held the celebration in conjunction with Don Jose’s Mexican Restaurant on Saturday evening. Patrons were invited for dinner and to enjoy authentic food that goes along with the holiday. There was face painting, giveaways and an altar where attendees could place photos of their dead loved ones in order to honor them.
The Briggses said they wanted to host the event as a way to give back to the Homer community, and as a way to become more visible in that community as the owners of Homer Truffle Co.
“It’s time for us to start coming into the community,” Evangeline Briggs said. “… We’re making Homer our home and our place where we raise our children, and so it doesn’t make any sense for us not to be involved in the community.”
The event also marked the release of a new chocolate that Homer Truffle Co. will be using: ruby chocolate. It is a completely new variety of chocolate introduced by Belgian-Swiss cocoa company Barry Callebaut in 2017, and has been in development since 2004.
The chocolate is produced using a certain kind of cocoa bean that gives it its pink/purple hue naturally. The chocolate has a sweet and sour taste very unlike that which is normally associated with the candy.
Evangeline Briggs is Hispanic and is a first generation US citizen. She said Dia de los Muertos is such an important holiday to the Briggs family that it was a conscious decision to make the Homer Truffle Co. event tied to it.
“Information is knowledge, and I think that’s what a lot of people lack,” Evangeline Briggs said of the holiday. “So that’s where we start, with the common questions that are always associated to this holiday, the common confusions that there are. The thought that it’s actually Halloween.”
Dia de los Muertos is a multi-day holiday spanning from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 that is celebrated in Mexico. It is used to honor dead family members or other loved ones and stems from a belief that, at this time of year, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead blurs and allows the souls of the deceased to come back to visit their families.
The holiday usually involved altars built to hold photos and memorabilia of dead loves ones along with their favorite food and beverages, to encourage such visits. Participants also often go to cemeteries to decorate the graves and tombs of their loved ones.
Evangeline Briggs said one misconception is that Dia de los Muertos is a Catholic holiday, but that in fact people of all faiths are welcome to participate. She encourages people to not let fear of the unknown or a lack of understanding stand between people and learning about another culture.
“I love how, sitting next to somebody, I can turn around and learn a completely different way of life,” she said. “And a lot of times there’s a lot of parallels.”
“Something different is always scary to people,” she continued. “And the only way to get through that fear is by sharing it with the community. And that’s why we wanted to make this … as much as possible, we wanted to make this free for everybody because, one, it was our way to give back and two, that’s what this holiday is about. Normally we’re at the grave sites and we’re with family and everybody around you is family. It doesn’t have to be blood relatives.”
The Briggses said they hope to make a Dia de los Muertos celebration a regular occurrence in Homer.