Do East Aldine families celebrate the annual Dia de Los Muertos — the Day of the Dead — in traditional ways or with the neighborhood’s distinct flair?

Actually, they do both in celebration of the Mexican holiday — as was seen at an advance celebration hosted by the East Aldine Management District.

Here’s what kids in costumes, and their families, had a chance to see:

— An altar, called an ofrenda, intricately and painstakingly decorated with photos of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty, tended carefully by Sgt. Terry Garza of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. The rows of portraits also included some of her family members and Daphne, an abandoned puppy she had adopted.

“I was the sun and moon to her,” Garza recalled. “And I love to think about my father-law’s laugh. He and my mother-in-law treated me like I was their own daughter.”

Sgt. Terry Garza

Garza playfully donned a large mask to draw attention to the meaning of the festival: a celebration of life and death.

Smiling, but slightly tearful, Garza described the meaning of the symbols on the multi-tiered altar: bright orange marigolds with a heavy scent to attract spirits of the fallen, incense and candles to light their way, pan de Muertos and water to share with loved ones’ spirits.

“It’s a long journey when they come and visit us. It’s a wonderful way to remember the lives of the ones we’ve lost,” Garza said.

The celebration “is both sad, but joyful,” Garza said.

—  Lone Star College East Aldine Center President Reyna Tippetts wore a crown of flowers while handing out information about class schedules — along with candies.

— There was a large pumpkin patch on the great lawn of the Town Center , a haunted house nearby at BakerRipley, corn hole contests using a skull-shaped base, coloring and crafts, contests and raffles for prizes, vendors of food, trinkets and Mexican shawls and shoes; a basketball hoop, and candy, candy, candy.

Kids competed for sweets at a basketball hoop, or rode an exercycle from the East Aldine gym Under Construction. They were disappointed to learn how few calories they were burning, one complaining loudly: “I only burned eight.” (About the number of calories in a Hershey’s Kiss.)

Other vendors included Clau Boutique, a pop-up shop featuring Mexican shirts, woven scarves, purses, and huaraches.

Costumed children posed for photos and carried treat bags. Family members of all ages spent time coloring skull-shaped drawings or taking time for face-painting.

— Dia de Los Muertos is traditionally celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2, with many families making traditional gravesite visits to their loved ones. Several East Aldine residents paid such visits Saturday at Brookside Memorial Park, located in the district.

— by Anne Marie Kilday