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DEIB Better Together: Dia De Los Muertos

Starting Monday November 25th through Tuesday November 2nd, we will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” for a week at Playgroup. Dia de los Muertos is a two day holiday, celebrated primarily in Mexico, that takes place on November 1st and 2nd, and reunites the living with their deceased loved ones. It is a rare holiday that celebrates both life and death, and is unique as mourning death is exchanged for celebration. Families create Ofrendas (altars) to honor their loved ones that have passed. These Ofrendas are decorated with many special elements that are believed to encourage visits from the deceased to join the celebration, by appealing to their senses with smells, light, colors and food. 

At Playgroup we will set up an Ofrenda (altar) in our Cultural Corner that honors family members and loved ones from our community that are no longer with us. The children will be able to walk by and look at the pictures, learn their names and their “3 favorite things”, which will be written on the back of the frames. Along with the pictures on the Ofrenda, we will have all of the special items and elements displayed that are unique to this celebration. These items will also be duplicated and included in the Artifact Box that will be shared with the classes to learn more about each of the specific items. 

The items and elements on the Ofrenda and in the Artifact Box are: 

  • Images of Loved Ones (on Ofrenda) Influential People (in Artifact Box) that have passed away that we honor 

  • Calaveras or “Sugar Skulls”

    • In traditional Dia de los Muertos celebrations sugar or chocolate skulls are used on the Ofrenda (alter) as offerings/gifts 

  • Copal Resin (incense)

    • Copal Resin, a type of incense, comes from a tropical tree found in Mexico and Central America. This is used on the Ofrenda to purify the air to welcome and attract the spirits

  • Itzcuintli

    • This figure is present on the Ofrenda for children as a toy. Itzcuintli is a breed of a Mexican dog that is said to be a spirit guide to the world of the deceased

  • Papel Picado or “Perforated Paper”

    • Papel picado is an artisanal work made out of tissue paper and used as decoration in many bright colors. Each one has a meaning: orange is a color of mourning, blue is for water, green for life, white for purity etc.

  • Sal or “Salt”

    • Salt is a key element in the offering as it as used on a plate to create special shape and helps to purify the air like the copal resin

  • Sempasúchil or “Marigold”

    • The sempasúchil, otherwise known as the Mexican marigold in English, is a strongly-scented orange flower of Mexican origin, and it’s the one flower used to decorate the altars. It’s either placed on the altar (in a vase or a pot), or its petals are sprinkled to guide the spirits to their feast by their aroma, color and shape

  • Veladoras (candles in glass votives)

    • Veladoras are candles placed inside glass cups. These candles illuminate the offering when it gets dark, as well as represent faith and hope. For the spiritual aspect, they provide the light that souls need to return home 

  • Festin or “Feast”

    • The festín is a feast of food and drinks specially prepared for the altar. The festín is usually made up of the favorite dishes of the honored deceased. Popular foods include the typical Mexican dishes such as tamales, mole, pumpkin sweets and pan de muerto (bread of the dead)

  • Pan de Muerto or “Bread of the Dead”

    • This bread is another offering that is decorated for the celebration and is part of the feast. It can be sweet or salty, and the latter may be sprinkled with sesame seeds. They’re round and decorated with some bone-like elements to look like skeletons 

There will be a special cultural craft, Felt Sugar Skull making, which will be done in each of the classes. The children will get to enjoy some of the favorite foods of the celebration for snack, including Pan de Muerto, as well as read many of the beautifully curated books which will be on display across from the cultural corner for the teachers to access. The final piece as always will be the element of music which will be incorporated in the classes all week. It is a full and special celebration to show our children how life and death can co-exist, and death be celebrated as a beautiful, and normal part of life.