Day of Dead (or Dia de Muertos) is a fun holiday for kids’ activities. We’ll cover when is day of dead, is Day of the Dead religious, traditional day of dead costume and makeup, calaveras or DIY sugar skulls, how to make day of dead flowers, throw a party, and more! We’ve put together 24 Day of the Dead activities including day of the dead facts and day of the dead history to help kids better understand and have fun with it!
Dia de Muertos may sound scary, but it’s really not once you understand it!
We’ve put together 24 Day of the Dead activities including day of the dead facts and day of the dead history to help kids better understand and have fun with it!
But first, let’s start at the beginning with some Day of Dead background:
What is Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead?
Dia de Muertos, or Day of Dead, is a Mexican Holiday that celebrates ancestors along with All Soul’s Day. Day of the Dead is not just “Mexican Halloween” and it is not the same as Cinco de Mayo.
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When is Day of Dead?
Day of the Dead is celebrated each year from October 31 to November 2 to honor family relatives who have died.
What is Day of the Dead in Spanish?
Day of the Dead in Spanish is Dia de los Muertos.
DAY OF DEAD FACTS
Day of the Dead History
Dia de los Muertos historically has roots in the Aztec traditions of honoring and celebrating the dead. However, the traditions spread into other cultures, especially in Central America.
What countries celebrate the Day of the Dead?
When we think of Day of the Dead, we probably think about Mexico. While that country has large Dia de los Muertos celebrations, the traditions are also honored in Guatemala, Brazil, Spain, and also in the United States, especially in the areas of Los Angeles where there are large Hispanic populations.
What happens on the Day of the Dead?
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. It is meant to be a happy time to share memories of loved ones that have passed.
Is Day of the Dead religious?
Dia de los Muertos has its roots as a religious celebration.
According to Catholic.org:
The holiday itself has multiple traditional origins, chiefly Catholic.
Catholics believe that the deceased do not always enter directly into heaven or hell upon their death, but instead may enter into purgatory, a sort of holding space, where they are cleansed of their sins before they can enter heaven.
People who die in a state of mortal sin go directly to hell, by virtue of their choice, while those who die without sin may go directly to heaven.
Purgatory is for those who have died in a state of sin, but not mortal sin.
These people must wait in purgatory until they are cleansed of their sins by the prayers of the faithful on Earth.
Day of the Dead is an occasion to offer those prayers.
This is largely redundant with the Catholic holy day of All Souls.
Day of the Dead is an occasion to pray for these departed people in purgatory.
What are some traditions during the Day of the Dead?
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 altar — food, drinks, and any other items that the family member enjoyed while they were alive.
It is also traditional to put calaveras, or sugar skulls, and marigold flowers on the altar.
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.
Day of Dead Costume
On Dia de los Muertos, people dress up in suits and nice dresses with hats like the calavera Catrina, or the skeleton with hat (“a well dressed woman”). People of all ages take part in dressing up in Day of Dead costumes. They also paint their faces in the traditional Day of the Dead makeup skulls.
Day of Dead Makeup
So, What’s Up With the Scary Day of the Dead Makeup Skulls?
OK, I will admit that some of the Day of the Dead face paint can be a little . . . jarring.
However, there is a reason that people celebrating wear Day of Dead makeup, 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.
24 Day of the Dead Lesson Activities, Crafts, Plans & Ideas
There are so many interesting ways to incorporate Dia de Muertos into your learning and fun Day of the Dead activities for kids!
Check these out:
• Day of the Dead Food: Make Pan de Muerto (with a twist!)
• Learn about more traditional Day of the Dead food
• Make TRADITIONAL MEXICAN PAPEL PICADO, which are the decorative papers and streamers
• Create a SUGAR SKULL COLLAGE
• 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
• Make tissue paper marigolds [VIDEO]
Learn About 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.
Watch 2 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
You can paint your face, or take turns painting each other’s face, for your Day of the Dead celebrations.
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 Calaveras (or 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.
Making Day of the Dead sugar skulls is a fun hands-on addition to your Dia de Muertos lessons.
Just make sure you have a skull candy mold before you get started!
Read These 6 Day of the Dead Children’s Books