The Traditions of Dia De Los Muertos


Dia De Los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated in Mexico but variations of the holiday are celebrated throughout Latin and Central America and into the Caribbean. 

This is a day where families can honor their late loved ones with celebrations and gifts. The traditions of Dia De Los Muertos are vast, but many families hold them close to their hearts and pass them down for generations. 

Because this holiday falls so close to Halloween and has such an emphasis on death it is often assumed that it is morbid. However, on the contrary, this holiday is actually a huge celebration of life filled with colors, food, and love. 

Families will come together and set up ofrendas or altars. These alters are filled with pictures, offerings, and mementos of their loved ones. They also hang papel picados — elaborately cut, rainbow-colored paper banners. People often paint their faces with sugar skull designs, honoring their loved ones. 

Sugar skulls are one of the Dia De Los Muertos decorations that you will see in a cemetery. Often you will see them with the names of the loved one a family is commemorating. 

Each of these traditions comes from the belief that after a person’s death they would have to journey throughout the land of the dead. It is not until after they complete the journey that their soul will be accepted into its final resting place.

Though Dia De Los Muertos is not as popular in the United States as it is in Mexico or other counties, it is still an important holiday and one that can be used to teach students about other cultures and how they honor their families — both living and passed on. 

Here are three activity ideas to help you bring Dia De Los Muertos into your classroom. 

Activity ideas: 

Here are a few books you can use as a read-aloud. You can use them to celebrate and learn about Dia De Los Muertos! 

Dia De Los Muertos Books: 

Students these days learn so much from YouTube. It’s better to embrace it, rather than fight it. Here are two movies revolving around Dia De Los Muertos. As well as some YouTube videos you can show in class to give students a better understanding of the holiday and its traditions. 

Dia De Los Muertos Movies and Videos: 

  • The Book of Life – Available on Prime Video 
  • Coco – Available on Disney +  
You Tube: 

Decorations for Dia De Los Muertos: 

Dia De Los Muertos takes place from November 1 to November 2.

It is a celebration of life and love. The colors, food, and the chance to celebrate with loved ones who have passed away fuel this celebration.

The traditions of Dia De Los Muertos are important to many families and rooted deep into the cultural history of Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Hopefully, with these ideas and background history, it becomes easier to bring the traditions and historical significance of Dia De Los Muertos into your classroom.

For more support in navigating subjects that may be new or unfamiliar, look to your fellow teachers. Join the Facebook groups Fearless Kindergarten,  Fearless First Grade Teachers, or Fearless Second Grade Teachers. Lean on your peers for support and guidance. You’re never in it alone.

You can also join Teaching Tiny Humans for emails, and support on dealing with touchy subjects. Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @educationtothecore for continued information and resources as the season progresses. You can also listen to our podcast Where the Primary Things Are.

Written by  – Korryna Sanchez

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