One of the reasons why I love San Francisco is that the people here know how to live. Most any reason becomes an opportunity for people to come together, dress up, and simply celebrate. The most magical of celebrations, for me, are those that are mired in deep cultural tradition.
I felt the stares on my face paint and crown of gerbera daisies as I walked through the streets down to the Mission district for Dia de los Muertos. The stares were even more apparent in the bar I stopped in at to meet friends for a cocktail enroute. But once I arrived within a few blocks of the parade, I felt more at home.
Dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead) is a traditional Mexican holiday (that aligns with the Catholic All Saints Day) to honor all those who have passed. Each year in San Francisco, people dress up in traditional and not-so-traditional costume and parade through the Mission district to celebrate the holiday. Some carry candles, pictures, or altars of their beloved deceased. The celebration is an invitation for those souls to commune with the living and hear their prayers.
In quintessential San Francisco style, it is a free, open event to anyone who wishes to partake in the festivities, and people are free to join and leave the parade as they wish as it moves along its pre-determined route through the city.
What struck me was how carefully planned and executed many of the costumes were. While death is commonly looked at as a grotesque and ugly thing, this holiday is a chance to honor it with beauty. It was interesting to see how people expressed this artistically. My minimal face paint was nothing compared to some of these costumes.
And of course, it culminated in a dance party as a drumming group assembled in the center of the parade. I would have taken pictures of it, had I not been too busy dancing it down.
The night ended when cop cars drove up from behind and parted the crowds from the street. I guess SF can have all the fun it wants, just not past quiet hours.