Where to Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in OC

Dorian Zavala / el Don

Santa Ana is Orange County’s epicenter for Día de los Muertos celebrations. Every year, multiple events let you view altars, eat comida and celebrate with the living and dead. Here are four local events (including one on campus!) to check out this weekend:

Santa Ana College Learning Center

Through Monday, Nov. 4

Three altars adorned with flowers in assorted colors pay homage to the deceased at the Santa Ana College Learning Center’s room-sized Día de los Muertos display. The celebration, which has roots in Aztec culture, includes placing the deceased’s favorite items on top of altars in the hopes they will come back to consume them. The Modern Languages Department and SAC Historical Society club collaborated on the Learning Center altars, and even created diagrams to explain the significance of these items.

Joanna Meza / el Don

Noche de Altares

Saturday, Nov. 2; noon to 9 p.m.

For 17 years, Noche de Altares in Santa Ana has been the O.C.’s largest Dia de Los Muertos celebration, drawing about 40,000 attendees to Calle Cuatro to honor the dead. On Nov. 2, it returns with blocks of altars in remembrance of the deceased in addition to entertainment, like cultural performances and live music.

However, construction of the OCTA Streetcar has forced the celebration to move to Flower Street and Santa Ana Boulevard, a few blocks away from its original location.

Día de los Muertos at Anaheim Cemetery

Saturday, Nov. 2; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The 4th Annual Día de los Muertos celebration hosted by the Orange County Cemetery District will start with a blessing by Father Bill Ciao in front of the Community Mausoleum at 6 p.m. on Nov. 2. After the program ends, free local entertainment, pan de muerto, crafts and marigold bouquets will be apart of the celebration.

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Families are invited to come to any of the district cemeteries — Anaheim Cemetery, Santa Ana Cemetery and El Toro Memorial Park in Lake Forest — through Nov. 5 to create their own personal ofrendas on the gravesites of their loved ones. It is advised not to leave valuable items on the ofrendas and candles with real flames are prohibited. 

Courtesy Bowers Museum

Día de los Muertos at the Bowers Museum

Sunday, Nov. 3, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

At Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, this free festival in honor of Día de los Muertos will have food, live music and dancing. There are no altars here, but there will be lots of food, including free Mexican hot chocolate and pan dulce in addition to entertainment ranging from Mexican boleros to ballet folklorico.

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