The Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos is something of a cross-cultural collaboration. While the Aztecs used their summer month of Miccailhuitontli to celebrate dead children, fallen warriors, and other ancestors, the Spaniards brought the Roman Catholic All Soul's Day with them in the 16th century.
Eventually the two holidays merged -- the Spanish influence pushed the celebration into the fall, but it retained the rituals of the indigenous tradition. Here in San Francisco, our own Day of the Dead festivities draw from two distinct cultures as well. Each year, the city's artistic types come out in style alongside the Mission District's Latino community to celebrate those that have passed from this world.
The result is an evening when tensions between the old Mission and the new Mission are set aside in favor of community (even if some of the kids call it Día de los Gringos), and one of the few large events in the city with no corporate sponsors. Friday, Nov. 1 is the 26th Annual Día de los Muertos Procession and Festival of Altars, where you can expect to see traditional altars of flowers, candles, and mementos of loved ones, as well as drums, dancing, and large scale art installations. The procession is organized by Rescue Culture Collective, and in recent years it's gotten pretty crowded, so if you want to pay tribute in peace, skip the procession and come to the park early.
The 26th Annual Día de los Muertos Procession and Festival of Altars begins Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. at Garfield Park, 3100 26th St. (at Harrison), and the procession starts at 7 p.m. (at Bryant and 22nd), S.F. Admission is free.