Community gathers to celebrate the dead

Sunnyside’s first-ever All Souls Day procession and mass was held this past Saturday, celebrating the lives of those who have died.
This is a holiday that dates back to the ancient Aztecs, but the Catholic Church has merged Dia de los Muertos with All-Saints and All-Souls day celebrations.
“It’s a cultural celebration,” said Trina Alvarez, who participated in the procession and mass in Sunnyside.
She said the celebration is held annually throughout South and Latin America, as well as Mexico. It is growing in popularity throughout the U.S.
This year, St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish and the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce organized a local event.
“It’s not scary or somber,” said Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce Director Pam Turner, stating it is a celebration.
It is a way to remember those who have died in a positive way, she said.
Alvarez said there are many symbolic ways to celebrate the dead. Sugar skulls are traditional folk art that commemorate deceased children.
“An altar is set up to give the living an opportunity to offer prayers for those who have died,” said Alvarez.
Offerings are placed at the altar to help the deceased on their journey. Candles are lit to guide the way.
Turner had a special kettle, or cauldron, made so those participating in the celebration could symbolically send messages to heaven.
Individuals with faces painted like sugar skulls and dressed in the fashion of La Catrina joined the procession that took place prior to the mass.
“La Catrina is a women’s style of dress to signify that it doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor…we don’t escape death,” said Alvarez.
She said this was the first time she celebrated the Day of the Dead. “I grew up in Texas and we didn’t do this…the procession was nice because it is another way we can share what we have in common,” said Alvarez.
“I sent a message to my brother,” she said, noting she was touched with the idea of sending a message that conveyed her love and hope for peace to someone who has died.

‑ Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email

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