Día de los muertos is not a holiday I grew up celebrating. In fact, I hadn't heard of it until I started teaching Spanish after college. Muerto or "dead" is a word we tend to tiptoe around in English, therefore if it's your first time hearing about it, it might not sound like a happy or festive tradition, especially if you see all the skulls used for decorations.
In fact it is, like many things from Mexico, steeped in tradition and reverence for family, gathering, and the sharing of food. Día de los muertos is a holiday that celebrates the dearly departed or difuntos. Families set up altars in their homes with mementos and photos of their loved ones that have passed away, and ofrendas or offerings of their favorite foods. Some families set up their ofrendas in cemeteries and burn incense and candles and spread marigolds along the paths to lead their loved ones' spirits back from the dead.
It can be hard to introduce a holiday to your kids that you don't celebrate. How do you explain all the little traditions and meanings behind everything that has been passed down for years and years. Of course my answer is always books! Día de los muertos by Roseanne Greenfield Thong (pictured above) is the book we checked out from our library to learn more about the holiday, and it has been perfect for a first introduction. The text rhymes, it teaches some Spanish words throughout, and it walks you through all the celebrations and traditions that families partake in with simple explanations of the meanings behind them.
Depending on the ages or Spanish-speaking levels of your kids (or students) here are some articles and videos that help explain the holiday as well. I use the English ones for beginning students, and the Spanish ones for the more intermediate or advanced students (or for good practice for myself!)
- Essential Vocabulary Words for Day of the Dead - Article explaining Day of the Dead words, symbols, traditions
- Tradición del Día de Muertos - Article written in Spanish
- Día de muertos (explicación para niños) - Video explaining Day of the Dead in Spanish (4:00)
- Day of the Dead - Flavor & Tradition - Video explaining Day of the Dead in English (3:40)
I got this really neat Lotería game from the Shop Hola Amigo Etsy store. My 7yo and 8yo played with me and we had fun! Any time you can use a game for learning it's a win for everyone. I was happy we were learning Spanish, and they were happy because I let them play for money! We got to learn the Spanish words for many elements of the holiday, and we also practice using some game-playing phrases.
I think this year I'm going to try to actually work with the kids to set up an altar. Even though our family's beliefs are different from what the holiday practices, I still think it will be a neat learning experience to talk about the different symbols and elements. For the papel picado we're going to go the easy route and make some from doilies. We already have some made from Hispanic Heritage Month that we made with friends, and the project was fun and simple enough we will probably do it again. I got the idea from Latinaish maaaany years ago! She has some really good posts about Day of the Day also.
If you would like to learn some Day of the Dead Spanish vocabulary, or would like help with some of the pronunciation of the words, I made a quick guide for you to download here. It would make a great companion to the videos and articles above, as well as any books you check out from the library about the holiday. What simple ways are you learning about or celebrating Día de los muertos this season? Check out all the learning and fun in the BLOG HOP below!!
Multicultural Kid Blogs is proud to be hosting another blog hop for Day of the Dead! (Don't miss our series from last year, 2017, and 2016!) Be sure to visit all the posts below for great ideas on sharing Day of the Dead with kids: