Family members and friends of the deceased gathered at Corpus Christi Catholic Church Sunday afternoon to to honor those who have gone before them in a special celebration.
The Day of the Dead, or El Dia De Los Muertos is a Mexican celebration observed in connection with the Catholic celebration of All Saints Day each year in early November.
Gunderson Funeral Home and Cremation Services, of Fort Dodge, and the Holy Trinity Catholic Parishes of Webster County have teamed up for the past eight years for the community to come together and celebrate the Day of the Dead with a Spanish Mass and authentic Mexican potluck meal.
Monserat Cuenca, left, and her son, Bryant Bravo, 7, follow along to the Mass during the annual Holy Trinity Parish Day of the Dead celebration at Corpus Christi Catholic Church Sunday afternoon. The celebration is a tradition in Mexico to honor deceased loved ones and friends.
"It's always a really nice Mass and celebration," said Phil Gunderson, owner of Gunderson Funeral Home and Cremation Services. "We don't want to forget the dead and this is a way of honoring them."
Sunday was the first time the annual celebration was held in the afternoon, allowing more families to attend the Mass, Gunderson said.
"It really helped with attendance" he said.
Mary Avelleyra, who played piano for the Mass, said she estimated around 150 people may have attended the event this year.
"It's so nice to see the families with little children here," she said.
The focal point of the event was a colorful altar in the parish hall which was decorated in flowers, skeletons, photographs of deceased loved ones and favorite foods.
"Latinos don't forget their dead," said Avelleyra. "We remember them every way we can. All of the things they did, their hobbies, all of their favorite things and what they liked to eat."
In Mexico, families take food to cemeteries and share a meal together with a celebration that lasts into the night, Mexico native Adrian Villa, who is now a resident of Fort Dodge said.
"They go to their graves and have music, plates of food and stay there all night," said Villa. 'There are poems, jokes, many ways to remember."
Villa was remembering several family members including his sister and parents.
"You want to remember all of the generations," he said.
Each family may celebrate El Dia De Los Muertos in a slightly different way, but all for the same purpose.
"Everyone has a different way to celebrate," said Villa. "But every way is very beautiful."
Villa said observing the Day of the Dead is a way of keeping those who have died alive in spirit.
"They never die, if we remember them they live," he said. "If we let them die, we die, too."
It is also meant to be a happy occasion.
"It is a very happy day; a celebration," said Avelleyra.