Day of the Dead
How to celebrate Day of the Dead in America

Open up the book of life and enjoy the Day of Dead! Kids and adults alike are
fascinated with the "Day of  the Dead," the three-day celebration that commences at a
local cemetery, known in Mexico as "El Dia de los muertos."  If you're wondering what
is Day of The dead and next, how might you celebrate it with kids in America, then read
on.

Wondering what is Day of the Dead? Here's a quick guide to this interesting holiday.
Day of the Dead is a party! The holiday is actually an ancient Aztec celebration of
death. Festivities for Day of The Dead start October 31 extend through November 2.
It's not a funeral, but a celebration of ongoing life where traditionally families of Mexico
gather to the graves of their relatives and friends who've passed to remember their
lives and welcoming them back to take part in the celebration. Here's how families
celebrate Day of the Dead:

  • Bringing bouquets of Marigolds, and carrying candles, the people of Mexico drop
    a path of petals to help their ancestral spirits find their way to the party.
  • Families tend to the graves to renew the grounds with fresh flowers and other
    decorations, and build an alter which includes things the deceased person
    enjoyed in his or her lifetime.
  • They come with candles in hand to place salt and water in small bowls (symbols
    of ongoing life).
  • Families picnic at the graves and feast on empanadas, tomales, chocolate and
    chile chicken mole and traditional Mexican specialities.
  • They serve and display "Bread of the Dead" (pan de meurtos), a sweet bread
    decorated like a person or skull and often with a skeleton baked inside (prized
    tokens of the celebrations). Other sweet offerings, include sugar skulls.
  • Together, the families dance and sing and remember well into the night.
  • Other ways the townspeople celebrate include playing music, having parades
    and dressing in skeleton outfits.

Day of the Dead lasts two nights and three days. The first night of Day of the Dead is
Halloween night where families celebrate children who have died. The next nights they
remember and honor adults who've passed

Wondering how you might celebrate Day of the Dead with kids in America?
While you might not want to visit a cemetery on Halloween or a dark November night,
you might well prepare some of the festivities at home with your children and
remember your friends and family who've passed on in honor of this exciting holiday.  
Here's how you might celebrate Day of the Dead with kids in America:

  • Head to the library and read a "Day of The Dead" story. Talking with kids about
    traditions in different cultures enriches their understanding, and reading books
    is a wonderful way to share the rich cultural diversity that America offers. If you
    want to read with your children, here are some excellent choices (and your
    librarian may have others to suggest):
  • "Day of The Dead," written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Jeanette
    Winter
  • "The Fesitival of Bones" by Luis San Vicente includes a wonderful poem
    and recipes for making your won Pan de Muerto or sugar skulls. There are
    also wonderful suggestions for building an alter.

  • Eat foods in honor of someone who's passed. Day of the Dead is a celebration of
    special foods, so entertain the idea of serving a Mexican feast that your kids will
    love, or honor a relative by serving a special dish of a relative who has passed.
    Did Grandfather enjoy mom's chocolate chip cookies? Was tuna casserole
    Grandma's favorite? Serve a meal just to honor their favorite foods, then talk to
    your kids all about their lives. Telling stories about

  • Make a diorama alter. You and your child can design cardboard box as a mini alter
    to celebrate grandparents or another loved one who has passed. Using a shoe
    box, you can paint and glue small items in honor of the deceased person or
    people you are celebrating.

  • Design a bracelet or crazy hat. To honor and remember relatives who've died,
    children can arrange a vase, create a special bracelet, or design a fun hat. These
    are "ofrendas" or offerings to give thanks to them.

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