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'They are not forgotten': Dia de Los Muertos celebrates lives of loved ones

Día de Los Muertos is a two-day celebration that honors loved ones that have passed with altars filled with things they loved.

BOISE, Idaho — Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebrates loved ones who have passed. It's a tradition that dates back centuries in Mexico and Central America, and it's being highlighted in an event in downtown Boise.

“For our pets who have passed away, slowly but surely go to our family members," said Maria Fernanda Avila, a teacher for Ballet Folklorico Yareth of Idaho.

The holiday is a celebration of life, not death. It is an invitation for loved ones to visit their family and celebrate the day with them.

"It's to make sure that they know that we still care about them, and they are not forgotten,” Avila said.

The holiday goes back to the Aztecs, Mayans, and Toltecs who dedicated the whole month to the dead.

"It's a really old tradition and that's why it's so rich I believe. It’s because it's that old and we make sure it still here,” Avila said.

To honor them, families create ofrendas -- or altars -- and provide them with what they need for their journey. Altars have a couple of staples that are widely known to represent their journey.

"The marigolds and then there is water, salt that has to be placed as well and it gives the different little elements,” Avila said.

The water represents hydration for their long journeys back home. Papel Picado, traditional paper banners, represent wind. Marigolds lead spirits from the cemetery to their altars, and food represents earth.

"Foods that family members would eat or drink or anything,” Avila said.

Día de Los Muertos is well known in Mexico and Central America, but many other countries and states have started adopting the holiday, including Idaho.

"Whether you grew up understanding and celebrating this holiday or not. It is such an opportunity to bring people together. We don't always get to travel the world and to celebrate this in other locations, but to bring it here," said Kathy O'Neill, community engagement director for JUMP in downtown Boise

JUMP, in collaboration with many local families and organizations, is hosting the 7th Annual Día de Los Muertos Celebration on Wednesday.

"All the performances will be up on the sixth floor all evening long," O'Neill said. "The JUMP room will be decked out with local artwork and the lobby will be filed with altars for a couple weeks.”

JUMP is located on Myrtle Street between 9th and 11th streets in Boise.

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