Tag Archives: halloween

Learning about Dia de los Muertos

31 Oct

Dia de los Muertos, or day of the dead, is a celebration that started with the Aztecs of Mexico and is still observed in Mexico and throughout Latin America, as well as in the United States.

For Dia, which lasts from October 31 until November 2, families come together to remember the deceased. People visit and clean their relatives’ gravesites at cemeteries; build altars (or ofrendas) with pictures and mementos of their loved ones; and prepare foods that were favored by the deceased. The goal of these acts is to entice their relatives’ spirits to visit, as it is believed that spirits come back to the living world on those days. While the occasion sounds somber, it is actually one of love, celebration, and feasts.

Orale Mexican Kitchen in Jersey City has a great example of an altar in their front window, which has pictures of Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, Jim Morrison, and Marilyn Monroe. Note the marigolds, the candles, and the skulls, all of which are also included in these types of altars.

orale altar

I first learned about Dia de los Muertos at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. After that visit, I decided to find out more about Dia and its customs and history.

I think the following books are great for learning more about this lively and touching celebration. These books are aimed at children, but I feel that anyone can enjoy them.

Day of the Dead, by Carrie Gleason

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This book is a straightforward overview of the celebration. It is nonfiction, and includes a dictionary of terms and an index in the back. Readers will also learn about the history of the Aztecs in Mexico, and how Dia evolved after the Spanish came to the country.

The Day of the Dead/El Dia de los Muertos, by Bob Barner

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The text in this book is written in English and Spanish, which is excellent for those learning both languages. There is a rhythm to the story that makes it ideal for reading aloud. The colorful and visually appealing illustrations make the skeletons seem friendly and not scary.

A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead, by Nancy Luenn

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Image via

This is the story of Rosita, a young girl who prepares for a Dia de los Muertos celebration with her family, during which she hopes to see her beloved Abuelita. This is another book where the story is told in English and Spanish. The textured artwork illustrating the story is gorgeous.

Are you planning to celebrate Dia de los Muertos? Have a happy and safe Halloween!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

October Horror: Six of My Favorite Horror Movies to Check Out for this Spooky Halloween Season

15 Oct

My husband and best friend love horror movies.  Some of my husband’s favorite memories of spending time with his father are the weekends they would watch scary movies together.  Although I am a fan of vampires in fiction and on film, I can sometimes be a bit squeamish when it comes to gore and tend to prefer with my horror with a bit of humor or an intellectual bent.  Whether or not you are typically a horror fan, I’d recommend checking out one of these films for Halloween this year.  Stop in for this month’s book discussion which is Peter Straub’s horror classic Ghost Story on October 20 at 6 pm.  There will also be a spooky film screening and discussion on October 23 at 6 pm.

Repo!: The Genetic Opera

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Repo! is one of not only my favorite horror films, but also my favorite movies in general. The quirky film deals with a future where organ transplants can conveniently be paid for by installment plans, but fail to make a payment and your organs will be repossessed.  Repo! came out in 2008, prior to 2010’s similarly plotted Repo Men. The movie is a rock opera, which is differentiated from a musical in that every line is sung rather than just musical numbers interspersing scenes of spoken dialogue.  The songs are clever and enjoyable.  Sarah Brightman with her ethereal voice is especially lovely.  If you are a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, like me, you will enjoy Anthony Stewart Head’s role as an organ repo man.  Alexa Vega who starred in Spy Kids was also terrific as his daughter and I hope that in the future she will have more featured adult roles.   Paris Hilton was even enjoyable in her small role as a spoiled socialite obsessed with plastic surgery.  If you enjoy The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you must check out this film!  Recently at Voltaire’s Necrocomicon Convention I enjoyed Darren Lynn Bousman’s 2012 musical horror follow up The Devil’s Carnival, which features several of the actor’s from Repo!, but additionally the vocal talents of Emilie Autumn.

Cabin in the Woods

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The most recent film on my list, my husband picked Cabin in the Woods out for a “date” night recently since he thought I would enjoy it since it was written by Buffy TVS/Angel writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon.  Amy Acker who starred as the brainy shy girl, Fred, on Angel also has a role in the film.  We popped some popcorn, made some delicious and appropriately named bloodbath cocktails, and settled in for what turned out to be a fun, humorous, and suspenseful twist on the classic horror genre.  I don’t want to give away too many spoilers involving the plot, but the college students on break at a remote cabin behave in typical horror movie fashion, however, much of this is motivated by mysterious scientists spying on them and influencing what is happening in subtle ways.  This film is definitely worth checking out especially if you are a fan of movies like Scream which play with the idea of horror conventions while still keeping with the suspense of the genre.

Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno)

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I went to see Pan’s Labyrinth with my father at the small local theater near my hometown that shows indie and foreign films when it first came out in 2006.  Pan’s Labyrinth, written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, is a Spanish language film set during the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.  The film centers on Ofelia a young girl whose mother is about to marry a brutal army captain.  Ofelia wanders into the nearby labyrinth and it is unclear at times whether the fantasy is the imagination of a child or if she truly is the princess of this other realm.  The visuals of Pan and the other creatures of the labyrinth are hauntingly stunning and the horror of the fantastic is juxtaposed meaningfully with those of the very real war.  I’ve enjoyed some of Del Toro’s other films such as Hellboy and Pacific Rim, but none has had the emotional resonance of this film, which still haunts me nearly a decade later.  Del Toro’s film The Devil’s Backbone also mixes the supernatural with Spanish history, in that case being set during the Spanish Civil War.

Nosferatu and Shadow of the Vampire

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I saw Nosferatu in an introductory film class and then several years later when I was living in the Boston suburbs for graduate school viewed Shadow of the Vampire with my roommate at the charming non for profit art deco Coolidge Corner Theatre near where we lived.  Nosferatu is a German silent film by F.W. Murnau from 1922.  It adapts Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel, but due to not having rights to the books Murnau changed the count’s name to Count Orlock.  Even without dialogue the film is still quite visually stunning and is one of my favorite vampire films.  Max Schreck with the minimal effects of the time seems truly transformed.

Shadow of the Vampire

Image via Amazon

Shadow of the Vampire from 2000 stars John Malkovich as F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck.  The film plays with the idea that Schreck so perfectly captures the idea of the nosferatu/ vampire because he is in fact a vampire himself.  I recommend borrowing these films together to make a fun double feature.  You can be the judge if you think Schreck was a talented actor or truly one of the undead.

Beetlejuice

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I love Tim Burton and was thrilled when I got to see props from Beetlejuice and other of Burton’s films when there was a special Tim Burton exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art back in 2009/2010.  Beetlejuice is one of the films like Lost Boys or The Craft I have to stop and watch any time it is on TV.  I love the quirky dark humor and if I’m ever a ghost I hope the afterlife is similar to the one depicted in the film.  Michael Keaton’s clown like ghost Betelgeuse gave me the creeps as a kid back when Beetlejuice came out in the late 80’s, but I totally thought Winona Ryder’s Lydia was the height of gothic girl cool.  I still enjoy the clever premise of the movie, that straight laced ghosts played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, want the odd balls that have moved into their old home to be scared away so they get Betelgeuse as a sort of reverse exorcist.  If you were also a child of the 80’s/90’s and a fan of the cartoon series where Beetlejuice and Lydia are best friends, you can borrow that as well from BCCLS libraries.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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