Dias de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st in south and central Mexico.
My two daughters and I make an altar to honor and remember the lives of those who have passed. I have a Mexican background – my father is from Nayarit, a state in northern Mexico, and my mom is from Mexico City in South Mexico. My mother’s side is Zapotec; one of the oldest surviving indigenous groups in the state of Oaxaca. Día de los Muertos is a time when family and friends get together to pray and remember loved ones who have died and help them on their spiritual journey.
Altars are created for Día de los Muertos to honor all family members and friends who have died. They are decorated with Marigold flowers, banners made from different colored tissue paper, sugar skulls, fruit, drinks, and our loved one’s favorite foods. These altars also include religious items and pictures of people we want to remember on this Remembrance Day. We usually try to incorporate their favorite snack, like chocolate or candy, because we want our loved ones to be happy when they come visit us.
My husband and I share this tradition with our Mexican-American children as a way to keep them connected to the cultural values that are important to our family. We do this to stay rooted to our culture and where we come from. I want them to be proud of the skin they are in and the culture they come from. While making an alter with my daughters, we take time to explain to them the meaning of each item . We are creating a family tradition that can be continued for many years. Growing up, my family did not have this tradition, so I want to make sure my children do. On the altar, we place one picture of each person we want to remember – we honor both sides of our family. We currently include items of our grandparents who have passed away.
The Disney movie, Coco, has been a fantastic tool to explain the meaning behind Dia de los Muertos in a kid-friendly way: from explaining the altar, having the family gather at our loved ones’ graves and having lunch/dinner with them, to the meaning behind the face painting. I encourage anyone who wants to learn more or have their kids learn more to watch this great movie.
Maggie is a member of the California Parent Leadership Team® in San Bernardino County., CA.