by Mrs. Porras -
My First/Second grade class is currently studying about Dia de Los Muertos. The 3rd-6th grade students joined us for a presentation relating to this occasion. We discussed the altars or ofrendas that are built to honor the dead. We read the children's book, The Spirit of Tio Fernando, El espiritu de tio Fernando, which is written in Spanish and English. It relates a day in the life of Fernando and how his family prepares to celebrate el Dia de Los Muertos.
The Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, is a centuries-old holiday mixing ancient Aztec and traditional Catholic customs. It is celebrated throughout Mexico, Central America, some parts of the United States, and other countries with large Mexican populations. During this time, people who have died are honored, and their spirits are believed to visit the earth. Altars or ofrendas are built in homes or cemeteries, and the markets are filled with special holiday foods. Plays such as “Don Juan Tenorio” and parades are held in many places.
Closer to home, it is not uncommon to see people in the area at their cemeteries cleaning and decorating the gravesites of their loved ones during the last two weeks in October. Local and area celebrations usually consist of attending church services on All Saints' Day (November 1) which is considered a Holy day of Obligation. On November 2, the Day of the Dead, Catholics may attend memorial services and visit the graves of ancestors, placing wreaths and flowers there in remembrance. Some churches have a special place in front of the altar where parishioners place photos of their deceased loved ones to be remembered and prayed for their eternal rest in a special way on this occasion.
When the holiday is over and the spirits have returned to the spirit world, the celebrants are happy and at peace, knowing they have made the souls of their dear departed loved ones feel loved and remembered.
After the presentation, the students decorated sugar skull-shaped cookies to culminate their lesson on Dia de los Muertos.