Discovery Point Blog

October 22, 2021

Celebrating Dia de Muertos

Día de Muertos — known in English as “Day of the Dead” — is a holiday celebrated throughout Latin America and in countries where Catholicism is widespread, as it coincides with All Saints Day. Celebrations typically begin on October 31st, when other cultures are celebrating Halloween, and continue through November 2nd.

If you recognize the skull and skeleton imagery often used in celebrations for this holiday but are unfamiliar with its history, you may wonder what it’s all about. The truth is that this holiday is far from morbid or scary. In fact, it revolves around celebrating ancestors and honoring loved ones who have passed on. 

If you’re looking to bring some added meaning to your Halloween celebrations this year, consider taking the time to teach your children more about Día de Muertos.

Getting Involved with Día de Muertos Festivities

This festival offers plenty of opportunities for fun crafts, colorful celebrations, and learning about other cultures. Some of our favorite Día de Muertos activities are listed below

Making tissue-paper marigolds.

Once you start doing some research about Día de Muertos and related celebrations, you’ll probably start to notice that marigolds are an important symbol for this holiday. Traditionally, this flower is used to honor the dead. 

Families leave marigolds at the graves of their loved ones and also use them for festive decorations and flower crowns. Tissue-paper marigolds are an easy craft to make with your kids before the holiday. Check out these simple instructions.

Painting stone skulls.

Sugar skulls are also used for Día de Muertos decorations and have their own symbolism. They represent a departed soul and are often placed on gravestones alongside marigolds. 

While sugar skulls are traditionally made from molded sugar, you can make a long-lasting version by painting skulls onto stones. Basic acrylic paint can be used, as can glitter, sequins, and even colored Sharpies, making this a fun art project kids are sure to enjoy

Trying pan de muerto.

Literally translating to “bread of the dead,” pan de muerto is a treat traditionally served during Día de Muertos. It’s a sweet, aromatic yeast-risen bread often shaped in the form of bones or skulls. You can try baking this bread as a family or head over to a local Latino bakery for a festive outing.

Crafting candle holders for photos of loved ones.

Candles and photos play important roles in Día de Muertos celebrations, offering a visual reminder and tangible way to honor loved ones who have passed. Photo candle holders made from vellum are a craft that shines a special light on family photos. 

While you’ll need to take care of having the photos printed on vellum, you can put your kids in charge of decorating the frames. Here are some in-depth instructions.

Assembling Día de Muertos lanterns.

If you have young children and aren’t quite comfortable with candles in the house, you can still achieve a similar effect with kid-friendly lanterns

Simply have your kids use a Sharpie to sketch skulls or related imagery onto white plastic cups and place the cups upside down over LED tea lights for a DIY decoration that looks great on a windowsill or mantle.

Are you interested in learning more about Día de Muertos? We recommend checking out the Smithsonian Latino Center’s abundant online resources with your children. For an inspiring introduction to the holiday for all ages, we also suggest having a family movie night to watch the Disney Pixar movie Coco!