At Halloween’s end in the United States, one of Mexico’s biggest events is just beginning. As one of the most widely celebrated holidays across the country, Dia de los Muertos is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn more about Mexico’s rich culture and history. We’ve compiled a list of information and activities to share with your family below!
Understand the history
In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated every year on November 1 and 2. On this two-day holiday, families honor their relatives and friends who have passed with colorful festivals and lively get-togethers. Influenced by indigenous Aztec rituals and Catholic principles from the Spanish, Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of life.
Before you dive into the festivities of the day, it can be helpful to have your child reflect on how they’ve honored those who have died. You can emphasize that every culture has different traditions, but each tradition is a celebration and opportunity to remember those who have passed.
Take a look at the holiday’s unique art
From street art to elaborate parade masks, art is an integral part of every Dia de los Muertos celebration. Artists paint smiling calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls) on everything, and it’s common for dancers and parade-goers to paint those same designs on their faces.
To better understand how the holiday’s aesthetic emerged, this worksheet gives your learner a visual history of Spanish art and ancient Aztec paintings. Have them compare the paintings to modern-day Dia de los Muertos imagery, and then encourage them to make their own! Young and old learners will love making sugar skulls and papel picado, which are both common to the holiday’s celebrations.
Make an altar to honor loved ones
In Mexico, families create their own altars to memorialize their loved ones. These altars range from simple tables to elaborate displays. You can help your child create their own with the materials you have on hand, or have fun handpicking items for decoration.
To honor loved ones, place a table against a wall and cover it in a colorful table cloth or decorative paper. Have your child choose what goes on the table—from pictures of loved ones to candles, handmade flowers, and favorite items or symbols that carry on their memory. You can even create a written dedication with your child to highlight a fond memory.