HORNITOS — More than 500 people, some from neighboring towns and cities as far away as Fresno, showed up for this year's All Souls Day in Hornitos.
Against the ring of a church bell, the traditional candlelit procession started in the downtown of the quaint Sierra foothill hamlet. A long line of participants filed in twos up the hill leading to the town's early 19th-century church and graveyard.
The Rev. Steve Bulfer of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Mariposa shared several prayers as people stood around the grave of Dona Candelaria de Sapien, the Hornitos resident credited with introducing the tradition to the area.
"On this dark moonless night, as we gather to remember our dead, we begin as we always do, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," said Bulfer, who has led the service for about 20 years.
"Amen," responded the solemn crowd in unison.
After the service, people dispersed, placing candles on the graves of relatives and loved ones.
"It's just a lovely occasion," said an emotional Pamela Seeley, who recently lost her mother.
She drove from Southern California with her husband, Vic, to pay remembrance in the town where her mother was raised.
"Her mom grew up here, went to school here -- a little one-room schoolhouse down the road," said Vic Seeley. "We'd come up for all occasions."
The event, also known as Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos in Mexico, is a Catholic tradition celebrated in several cities in California.
However, Hornitos has a unique take on the cultural practice, said Delores Cabezutortiz, member of the Hornitos Patrons Club, which helps organize the event.
"If you go to some of them, it's very elaborate where they build the altars on the graves and all that," she said. "We don't do that.
"There's a lot of people here who are not Catholic," she added. "It's very multidenominational. It's really pretty and peaceful and people like to come."
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.