Learn About & Celebrate Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead!

People dressing up as skeletons, huge parades, and candy! You might think Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, was just like Halloween but this Latin American holiday has a far different meaning.

Celebrated November 1st and 2nd of each year, Dia de los Muertos is an opportunity to remember and honor family and friends who have passed away. People share stories about their departed loved ones and attend community-wide parades and festivals. Many also create home altars, called ofrendas, memorializing and celebrating the deceased, eat special foods like pan de muerto and calaveras, and decorate family graves and memorials.

With its roots in ancient Mayan culture, and most commonly observed in Mexico, this holiday incorporates a mix of Pre-Colonial Indigenous traditions and Roman Catholic practices. Growing in popularity globally and across the United States in recent years, Dia de los Muertos is a way for families to work through grief and heal together while embracing the memory of loved ones no longer with us.

Learn more about the origin of Dia de los Muertos and how it is celebrated today with the resources, crafts and activities below.

Learn About Día de los Muertos

Understanding Ofrendas: Día de los Muertos | Young Explorers

Grades PreK-5
If you’re unfamiliar with the details of the Día of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), you might not understand the significance of the details around the ofrendas families put up to honor the deceased. CeCe Villa from Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines, Iowa, walks us through what you’ll see on this celebratory altar.

Day of the Dead Resources | Smithsonian Latino Center

Grades 6-12
Check out these great resources from the Smithsonian Latino Center featuring classroom and at-home tools for expanding your understanding of the tradition and culture behind the Day of the Dead.

Artbound | Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

Grades 6-12
Día de los Muertos has been adapted for centuries from its pre-colonial roots to the popular depictions in mass media today. Inspired by Oaxacan traditions, it was brought to East Los Angeles in the 1970’s as a way to enrich and reclaim Chicano identity through a small celebration at Self Help Graphics and Art. Since then, the celebration has grown in proportions with renditions enacted globally. Learn more with this episode of Artbound.

Día de los Muertos: Tradition and Translation | Craft in America

Grades 9-12
The Día de los Muertos: Tradition and Translation media gallery explores the work of Ofelia Esparza. Esparza, educator and life-long artist, is an altarista, a master altar maker who teaches the meaning and history of Día de los Muertos and the altars that commemorate loved ones who have passed away. In the accompanying lesson, students will view Día de los Muertos observances in East Los Angeles and in Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico, and examine the artistic traditions and the translations within and between the celebrations. Students will look within their own communities and consider the varied ways that loved ones are memorialized.

Beyond Sugar Skulls: The History and Culture of Dia de los Muertos

Grades 9-12
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a tradition first practiced thousands of years ago by indigenous peoples such as the Aztecs and the Toltecs. Three thousand years later, Día de los Muertos (called Día de Muertos in Mexico) is celebrated globally. However, as its popularity grows in the United States, so have signs and concerns of cultural appropriation. This article offers useful strategies in fostering cross-cultural connections in and out of the classroom to address these concerns.

Activities, Crafts & More

SING-A-LONG | Let’s Go Luna!: Day of the Dead | PBS KIDS

Grades PreK-2
Join Luna as she sings to Carmen about how to conquer her fears on the Day of the Dead. With the support of Andy and Leo, they all demonstrate to Carmen that everyone has fears.

Making Tissue Paper Flowers: Día de los Muertos | Young Explorers

Grades Prek-5
Tissue paper marigolds are a relatively easy craft that can be part of your Día de los Muertos celebration and a welcome addition to an altar honoring your loved ones. Work alongside Jessica Villegas and Eduardo Bolanos from the Des Moines Art Center’s special bilingual video to make these flowers using just a few supplies.

Day of the Dead Books for Kids

Grades PreK-5
Check out this booklist offering unique interpretations of the holiday that will provide an excellent introduction for students who are new to the Day of the Dead, as well as an important opportunity for students who celebrate the holiday to share their own family traditions.

Day of the Dead Candle Magnets

Grades PreK-5
Turn ping pong balls and battery tea lights into “Sugar Skull” magnets for a great way to open up a dialogue with kids about holidays celebrated in other countries.