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Dia de los muertos sugar skull

Teach Your Kids About Día de los Muertos

how to honor the holiday and those who've passed away

While Halloween is quickly approaching, so is Day of the Dead! And the Mexican holiday is definitely a day (well, two-day) you and your family should learn about. Whether or not you choose to celebrate the holiday, Day of the Dead is an important holiday to Mexican and other Latin American cultures. So bring the sugar skulls (calveras) and marigolds home with our tips, resources and events the whole family will enjoy.

What is Día de los Muertos?

Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a two-day holiday—celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2—where families come together to celebrate, pray for and honor their loved ones that have died. Originating in Mexico, the holiday is now celebrated all over Latin America.

And even though this holiday and Halloween overlap, it is by no means “Mexican Halloween.” But both holidays did originate with similar afterlife beliefs from All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, but are celebrated differently today.

How Día de los Muertos is Traditionally Celebrated

Starting midnight on Nov. 1, Dia de los Angelitos (or Day of the Little Angels, honoring children who have passed away) begins. Families construct an altar (known as an ofrenda) with the departed child’s favorite items—such as snacks, toys and photographs..

As soon as the clock strikes midnight Nov. 2, the celebrations shift to honor adult spirits on Día de los Difuntos (or Day of the Deceased). While families also construct altars for departed adults, the ofrendas feature more adult themes—like tequila, pan de muetro and jars of Atole.

By noon on Nov. 2, Día de los Muertos begins. People typically come together and have parades in their city—complete with skull-painted faces and traditional Mexican dress. Families visit cemeteries and decorate grave sites with marigolds, gifts and sugar skulls with the departed’s name inscribed. It’s also common to clean the gravestone to restore its color.

Editor’s Note: If you plan on celebrating,  keep in mind the customs and traditions. The preparations that lead up to the holiday are extremely important in Mexican culture as it’s a deeply spiritual and family-bonding experience.  

Children’s Books and Movies about Day of the Dead

Now that you have a little background on the holiday, teach your children! And whether or not you already celebrate Day of the Dead, these books and movies will help educate your little ones on the holiday’s importance to your culture. Here’s a few of our picks:

BOOKS:

A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead, by Nancy Luenn
Best for: ages 6–9
This cute story follows Rosita after her Abuelita dies. Her father urges her to make a gift to leave at the altar on Day of the Dead—but what will she make?

Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book, by Jeanette Winter
Best for: ages 3–6
Each celebratory skeleton acts out a letter of the alphabet to help introduce your little ones to the Spanish alphabet and folk art.

Celebrate Halloween and the Day of the Dead With Cristina and Her Blue Bunny, by F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada
Best for: ages 3–6
If you celebrate (or plan to celebrate) both Halloween and Day of the Dead, this one’s for you! While Cristina gets ready to trick-or-treat, she explains how her family celebrates the Day of the Dead.

The Day of the Dead, by Bob Barner
Best for: ages 6–9
This book illustrates Day of the Dead celebrations along with a Spanish and English text.

The Festival of Bones, by Luis San Vincente
Best for: ages 6­–9
With easy rhymes and beautiful illustrations, the humor and celebrations of the Day of the Dead come to life.

Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead, by Judy Goldman
Best for: ages 6­–9
Lupita and her Tío watch the Monarch butterflies. When her uncle passes, Lupita is sad until she sees the Monarchs and remembers him.

Clatter Bash! A Day of the Dead Celebration, by Richard Keep
Best for: ages 3­–6
The beautifully illustrated skeletons are ready to sing, dance and eat as they celebrate the Day of the Dead. Plus, this book is written in English but incorporates Spanish words and expressions as well.

Felipa and the Day of the Dead, by Birte Müller
Best for: ages 6­–9
When Felipa is told that souls live on for eternity, she asks a few animals (a donkey, pig and llamas) where her recently passed Abuelita is hiding. When Day of the Dead celebrations commence, Felipa starts to feel close to memories of her grandmother.

I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story, by Janice Levy
Best for: ages 3–6
While her family prepares for Day of the Dead, a young girl recalls some of her favorite memories of her grandfather.

MOVIES:

Coco (2017), PG: Not only is this movie the Day of the Dead movie, it’s a great movie for all generations. Miguel finds himself in the colorful Land of the Dead in hopes of finding his great-great-grandfather, who left the family to pursue a singing career. (Have tissues on standby!)

The Book of Life (2014), PG: This fun, and not-too-serious take on the holiday, showcases Mexican culture with a fairy-tale feel.

Celebrations in Dallas-Fort Worth

Due to the pandemic, 2020’s Day of the Dead celebrations will look a bit different. Here’s a mix of events happening this year—both virtual and in-person—in the Metroplex and beyond.

A Long Journey: 2020 Día de los Muertos // Museum of Latin American Art (virtual)
Community Ofrenda Tour // Multiple Dallas locations
Day of the Dead Caravan with Cara Mía Theatre // Dallas
Día de los Muertos // Garland (virtual)
Día de los Muetros Celebration // UT Dallas (virtual)
Día de los Muertos Celebration // Crown Hill Memorial Park, Dallas
Día de los Muertos Concert // Dallas Symphony Orchestra, from $9
Día de los Muertos Festival // Frisco, $10
Día de los Muertos Festival // Latino Cultural Center
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) // Atlanta Historic Center (virtual)
Halloween & Día de los Muertos // Dallas Arboretum, from $12
Muertos Fest // San Antonio (virtual)

Image courtesy of iStock.