Not Halloween: An Introduction to Dia de los Muertos

by Teresa Narey

Introduction and Background:

In the U.S., the end of October is traditionally marked by the celebration of Halloween. In greater America, however, another holiday emphasizing fun, food, and costumes calls attention to the passing of time. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico and throughout Latin America on November 1 and 2, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, respectively (click here for help pronouncing Spanish words). On the surface, Dia de los Muertos and Halloween appear to have much in common, but a closer look at customs tells us otherwise.

The purpose of Dia de los Muertos is to honor the memories of deceased loved ones by having parties, displaying their favorite items in ofrendas (altars), and participating in activities they once enjoyed. Celebrations highlight the idea that our ancestors are still with us in spirit. Acknowledging Dia de los Muertos in your setting provides children with a multicultural experience that extends autumn’s greatest lesson—the circle of life.

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