Live it up on Day of the Dead at Hay Caramba! in Park Ridge
Skulls and other offerings honoring the dead are displayed on a Day of the Dead altar inside Hay Caramba! restaurant in Park Ridge. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Hay Caramba!
SPECIALTY: Mexican cuisine
ADDRESS: 122 S. Prospect Ave.
CONTACT: (847) 518-0747
Updated: October 30, 2012 11:50AM
PARK RIDGE — The skulls made of sugar and icing and the festively dressed skeletons in the foyer of Hay Caramba! restaurant in Park Ridge are more than pre-Halloween decor.
The Mexican restaurant, as it does each year, is again celebrating Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, with a traditional altar honoring loved ones who died within the past year.
The day, which mixes traditional indigenous practices with Christian beliefs, coincides with the Catholic Church’s feast day of All Souls Day on Nov. 2. On Nov. 1, the feast day of All Saints, Mexicans honor children and infants who have died.
This year at Hay Caramba!, offerings are being made to owner Bull Saavedra’s mother, Fidelia Salgado, and his uncle Juventino Salgado. Photographs of the brother and sister adorn the altar.
Though such an altar would normally be displayed within a home, the Saavedra family brings their traditions to the Uptown Park Ridge restaurant so they can be shared with others.
“We do it here to give people a cultural experience of what would be done at home, especially in Mexico,” Michael Saavedra said.
He added: “People get to see how we, as Mexicans, celebrate our dead. It gives everybody a different perspective of what goes on.”
And Day of the Dead is, in the true sense, a celebration, not the somber event many might associate with a loved one’s death anniversary.
“It’s not necessarily about sadness. It’s about (the souls) coming back home,” Michael Saavedra explained.
Several types of offerings are required for the altar honoring the year’s deceased. Marigolds symbolize eternal life; candles are used to light the souls’ way back home; water is placed to quench the thirst of the spirits; and bread represents their bodies. Favorite food and drink of the deceased are also placed on the altar, as is incense, decorated sugar cubes shaped like skulls and folk-art statues of skeletons wearing traditional attire.
In Mexico, Day of the Dead is a national holiday and families will spend time together at the graves of loved ones.
“They bring flowers to the cemetery; they spend the whole day there,” Bull Saavedra said. “They bring food, like a picnic.”