World Wonder

Inspiring Global Citizenship

Celebrating Life!

on October 28, 2014
Dia de los Muertos (Photo credit: Jessica Seba)

Dia de los Muertos (Photo credit: Jessica Seba)

I have always been intrigued by the Latin American tradition of Día de los Muertos. Although marked throughout Latin America, Día de los Muertos is most strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. It is believed that on November 1 the deceased come back to earth for a visit and families create ofertas or altars to welcome their presence.

According to National Geographic Education, “assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Día de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Día de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Día de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.”

My daughter’s classroom has been studying this tradition and as a class created an altar featuring photos primarily of great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and pets that have passed. The children decorated the altar with tissue flowers, papel picado, fruit, skulls, hearts and other memorabilia representing loved ones. I like the tradition of having a time each year to celebrate loved ones that have past. The simple act of creating a special place for loved ones and remembering what they enjoyed can be immensely therapeutic and powerful. I can remember attending my first Día de los Muertos procession in San Francisco. It was a magical, mystical and beautiful community event.  The streets were filled with skulls and skeletons dressed in street clothes, dresses, and suits, dancing, singing, and celebrating life.

I found it interesting how my daughter quickly turned something that may seem morbid into something that was uplifting, colorful, and celebratory.  Her classmates have embraced this tradition with curiosity, compassion, and intrigue.  I encourage families to create their own ofertas or altars in their homes. I also encourage you to check out some of these local activities happening this weekend. Here’s one way of putting an international twist on Halloween, show your kids how the day after Halloween is celebrated in parts of Latin America. Ask your children what they would include in an oferta to loved ones. You might consider including these typical objects in your altar:

  • A photo of the person to whom the altar is dedicated
  • A glass of water or beverages enjoyed by the loved one
  • Flowers or other natural objects
  • Decorations
  • Fruit, bread, and other foods
  • Candles and incense
  • Things that the person enjoyed in life

Check out these local Bay Area activities and celebrate!:


2 responses to “Celebrating Life!

  1. Richard King says:

    Loved this and learned a lot too.

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________


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