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Dia de Muertos may sound scary, but it’s really not. It’s actually a great topic for a theme lesson!
So, what is Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead?
It is celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd to honor family relatives who have died.
According to NatGeo:
Day of the Dead combines the ancient Aztec custom of celebrating ancestors with All Souls’ Day, a holiday that Spanish invaders brought to Mexico starting in the early 1500s.
Day of the Dead Traditions
For the people who celebrate the Day of the Dead festival, death is not seen as necessarily sad.
Instead, Dia de Muertos is viewed as just part of the cycle of life and children are taught not to fear death.
(Novel idea, huh?)
It is meant to be a happy time to share memories of loved ones that have passed.
Families who celebrate often set up a Dia de los Muertos altar, or ofrendas de dia de muertos (ofrenda de muertos), in their homes to honor the deceased.
They then place some of the deceased family member’s favorite things on the alter — food, drinks, and any other items that the family member enjoyed while they were alive.
It is also traditional to put sugar skulls and marigold flowers on the alter.
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After they have decorated their homes, the families then go to the cemetery for a celebration.
They have a huge feast and spend time cleaning the tombstones and honoring their family members who have passed.
So, What’s Up With the Scary Day of the Dead Makeup Skulls?
However, there is a reason that people celebrating wear painted Day of the Dead makeup skull faces and also why they decorate with painted skeletons.
In the past, painted faces, costumes, and dances were used to “scare away the dead” at the end of the Dia de Muertos celebration.
However, it has evolved into painting your face to celebrate something about a loved one or simply as a way to express yourself during the celebration.
Day of the Dead Lesson Plans, Activities, Crafts, Ideas and Facts
There are so many interesting ways to incorporate Dia de Muertos into your learning.
Check these out:
• Make TRADITIONAL MEXICAN PAPEL PICADO, which are the decorative papers and streamers
• Create a SUGAR SKULL COLLAGE
• Learn about traditional Day of the Dead food
• Make Day of the Dead Ornaments
• Spend a couple of weeks with a Day of the Dead study unit
• Have fun with this Day of the Dead Educational Activity Guide
Dia de Muertos Colors
According to AZ Central, the colors during Dia de Muertos have very specific meanings:
Yellow – Represents the sun and unity, because under the sun, we’re all the same.
White – Using this color in decorations represents spirit, hope and purity.
Red – Represents blood and life.
Purple – For this holiday, purple represents mourning, grief and suffering.
Pink – The bubbly color signifies happiness.
Kid Friendly Day of the Dead Videos
Here’s a good (kid-friendly) video that explains Dia de Muertos:
I also thought this was a cute short film, but you may want to watch it beforehand because some kids (especially little ones) may find it sad or scary:
Paint Your Face for Day of the Dead
This Day of the Dead makeup face paint kit makes the painting super easy!
There are also cool Day of the Dead makeup skull face tattoos that you can put on just for the day!
Make Sugar Skulls
Sugar skulls, or calavera, are candy skulls that are created to resemble the deceased. They are a traditional treat during the Day of the Dead celebrations.