Decorative sugar skulls are one of the ways people mark Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a festival that takes place Nov. 1-2. Do you know the holiday’s origins?

This week’s trivia challenge, by Amy Ferguson, Albion Library branch manager for Whitman County Library, tests your knowledge of ancient celebrations of life and death that remain with us today.

The Whitman County Library’s online trivia challenge takes place at 5:30 p.m. the third Thursday of each month on its Facebook page.

  1. What Celtic holiday is widely thought to be the precursor to our modern Halloween celebration?

  2. Where does the word “Halloween” come from?

  3. What were the original jack o’ lanterns carved from before people had easy access to pumpkins?

  4. What are the origins of Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead? (Hint: Think of a religion and a cultural group.)

  5. What is an ofrenda?


  1. Samhain, pronounced “Sow-win,” was celebrated starting around 2,000 years ago by Celtic people in Europe. It marked the end of harvest and the start of the Celt’s new year. It was a time to commune with spirits and light bonfires to honor loved ones who had passed on.

  1. Halloween is a shortening of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” or “Hallows Eve.” Nov. 1 is All Hallows Day, or All Saints’ Day in the Christian/Catholic tradition, making Oct. 31 All Hallows Eve.

  1. Turnips, potatoes and beets.

  1. Día de los Muertos has both Catholic and Aztec origins. For thousands of years, the Aztecs practiced honoring the dead and celebrating their lives. Death isn’t viewed as the end of existence, but a new chapter of life.

  1. An ofrenda, Spanish for “offering,” is a temporary table set up in a family home to honor deceased loved ones and provide them things for their journey, including items that belonged to them and objects that serve as a reminder of their lives. Every ofrenda includes the four elements: water, wind, earth and fire. Water is for spirits to quench their thirst; papel picado, or traditional paper banners, represent the wind; and earth is represented by food, especially bread or pan de muerto. Candles provide fire and often are left in the form of a cross to represent the cardinal directions, so the spirits can find their way.

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