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Day of the Dead Honors Loved Ones Who Died, and Celebrates the Living

Also: A listener in Egypt would like to know more about actress Julianne Moore. And songs from the latest album by British singer Annie Lennox. Transcript of radio broadcast:

Correction attached


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Bob Doughty. On our show this week:

We listen to some music from Annie Lennox …

Answer a question about an American actress …

And report about a holiday that honors the dead.

Day of the Dead


On October thirty-first, many Americans will celebrate Halloween. On that night, people dress up in special clothing to look like scary creatures such as monsters, witches or ghosts. Many children will go door to door in their neighborhoods to “trick or treat” and collect sweets. But for people from Mexico and Central America, this day marks the beginning of celebrations for “Dia de Los Muertos”, or “Day of the Dead.” Barbara Klein tells us about it.


Day of the Dead honors the memory of loved ones who have died while also celebrating the continuation of life. The ancient tradition started among the native cultures of Mexico. It has its roots in an Aztec tradition of honoring and remembering the dead.

When the Spanish came to Mexico in the sixteenth century, they celebrated the Christian holiday of All Saint’s Day in which dead loved ones are also honored. Day of the Dead developed into a combination of both traditions.

People celebrate Day of the Dead on November first and second. Families visit the burial places of their loved ones and make their graves beautiful. They place orange marigold flowers and lighted candles. They bring special food and drinks and spend the night celebrating and telling stories with other members of their community.

Traditional food includes tamales and “pan de muerto,” a sweetened bread formed in the shape of a person. Friends and family exchange presents such as “calaveras," sugar candies in the form of a skeleton head. Families have special places in their homes called altars. Here they place flowers, candles and photographs of the loved one being remembered.

Many families from Mexico and Central America keep the tradition alive in the United States. For example, in San Francisco, California, a large community celebration will take place November second. Local artists will create five large public altars. People from around the city will place flowers, photographs and food on the altars.

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona will also celebrate the day with Mexican music and an altar. And, across the street from VOA in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of the American Indian will hold Day of the Dead celebrations this weekend. There will be food, storytelling and music and dance performances.

Julianne Moore


Our listener question this week comes from Egypt. Ashraf Yusif Ewiss wants to know about the American actress Julianne Moore. She has become famous for her skillful acting, good looks and striking red hair.

Julianne Moore was born Julie Anne Smith in nineteen sixty. Because her father worked for the United States military, Julie and her brother and sister moved often when they were young. Julie graduated from the American High School in Frankfurt, Germany before attending Boston University in Massachusetts.

Moore first found work as an actress in the daily television series “As the World Turns.” Several years later, she started to appear in movies. She had supporting roles in popular movies such as “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”, “Benny and Joon” and “The Fugitive.”

In nineteen ninety-three she had a small role in “Short Cuts” directed by the famous American director Robert Altman. Her performance received great critical praise. Soon, she started getting roles in larger Hollywood movies. These include “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Hannibal.” Julianne Moore has appeared in more than forty movies. They include large expensive movies as well as smaller independent art films.

Moore has been nominated four times for the Academy Award. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Boogie Nights” and “The Hours.” She received Best Actress nominations for “The End of the Affair” and “Far From Heaven.”

Julianne Moore lives in New York City with her husband, the movie director Bart Freundlich. They met ten years ago during the filming of his movie “The Myth of Fingerprints.” The couple has two young children, a son and a daughter. Moore is also one of the busiest American actresses. She will be appearing in three movies this year -- "Next," "I'm Not There" and "Savage Grace."

Julianne Moore is currently making the movie “Blindness," directed by Fernando Meirelles. It is based on the book by Brazilian writer José Saramago. “Blindness” is expected to be released next September.

Annie Lennox


The British singer Annie Lennox has been making records for over twenty-five years. She started her musical career with the famous band the Eurythmics. Now she has been recording on her own. Lennox made her latest album, “Songs of Mass Destruction,” to honor all the humanitarian workers and peace activists around the world. Faith Lapidus has more.

(MUSIC: "Coloured Bedspread")


That was the song “Coloured Bedspread.” It gives a good example of Annie Lennox’ strong and emotional voice. “Songs of Mass Destruction” is the last album Lennox will make under her record deal with Sony BMG Music Entertainment. She says she is very glad to have had the record deal. She says in the past, musicians needed record contracts to guarantee future business.

But now she can make any kind of music she wants. She says she might like to work with other singers or maybe even make an album of folk or Latin music.

This fall, Annie Lennox will be performing her new songs in sixteen concerts across North America. Here is the energetic beat of “Ghosts in My Machine." It tells about how painful memories are hard to forget.


Annie Lennox wrote one song on the album to bring attention to preventing pregnant women with HIV/AIDS from spreading the disease to their babies. If you listen carefully, you can hear the voices of twenty-three famous female performers. They include Madonna, Faith Hill and Bonnie Raitt. Annie Lennox says she asked the women to join her to make a strong political statement. By writing the song, she says she is empowering those women who do not have an international voice. We leave you with “Sing”.



I'm Bob Doughty. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written and produced by Dana Demange. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Send your questions about American life to Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


Correction: This program describes writer José Saramago as Brazilian. He is Portuguese.