Yesterday marked the end of the holiday Dia de los Muertos or Day of The Dead. I have to admit, before I moved to Los Angeles, I knew nothing of Dia de los Muertos. It is celebrated in Mexico, among other countries, and since L.A. has a large Mexican population, it’s often celebrated here as well.
Despite it’s morbid name, the holiday focuses on the celebration of the lives of friends and loved ones who have died. It is a happy holiday and a great way to introduce the concept of death to your toddler, since it doesn’t focus on the sorrow that always surrounds death.
Typically, an altar is built with marigolds, candles, sugar skulls, a special sweet bread, and photos or objects representing those who have passed. There are also cut-out skull flags in brilliant bright colors. This is not a religious celebration, but a cultural one.
At my son’s preschool they have been discussing Day Of The Dead as a “cultural exploration” to introduce the children to traditions. The concept of ‘death’ has come up a number of times for the students, whether it was death of a class pet or when they were playing ‘dead’ in an imaginary game. It’s inevitable that toddlers will encounter death in some form, so it seems to me that talking about it in a positive way, where friends and relatives lives’ are remembered fondly, is a healthy way to embrace it. I think it’s a nice way to talk about people you love, and all the things you miss about them.
Below, I’ve gathered some photos of Dia de Los Muertos.
Some sugar skulls. 1 of 7A typical altar item is a skull made of sugar, often painted with beautiful colors, like these.
An altar 2 of 7Here is an example of an altar.
Pan de los Muertos 3 of 7A special sweet bread baked at Mexican bakeries specifically for Dia de los Muertos.
Another altar 4 of 7Note the marigolds and photos of loved ones.
Image Credit: sfmission.com
An altar on a table 5 of 7Here's an example of an altar on a table with the skull flags in beautiful bright colors.
Home altar 6 of 7This is the home altar of a friend, honoring her grandfather and a close family friend. Photo Credit: Anoosh Jorjorian
Classroom altar 7 of 7A lovely example of an altar in a classroom.
Photo: Flickr/Christine Zenino