What is Día de los Muertos?
Día de los Muertos translates to the Day of the Dead and is also known as All Souls’ Day. Celebrated on November 2, Día de los Muertos is a traditional Mexican holiday that is now celebrated in many parts of the world. During this celebration, people honor and remember their ancestors, and it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living family members.
History of Día de los Muertos
Dating back to rituals and traditions of ancient indigenous peoples in Mexico, Día de los Muertos was initially celebrated for an entire month. However, this was condensed down in the 20th century. Now there are 3 days to celebrate the Days of the Dead:
- December 31: Halloween
- November 1: Day of the Innocents
- November 2: Day of the Dead
How is Día de los Muertos Celebrated?
Traditions of Día de los Muertos include food and flowers, visits with family members, prayers, and stories about those who have died. Many people celebrate this day by visiting the graves of deceased loved ones, creating altars and setting up ofrendas (offerings). These offerings are placed at the altars and are individualized to contain the favorite foods, drinks, cherished books, instruments, jewelry, and photos of the deceased loved one. Velas (candles) and flores (flowers) are also included, most often marigolds. The use of marigolds dates back to the earlier ancient traditions of Día de los Muertos. The vibrant colors and scent of the marigolds are thought to guide spirits to visit the living during the celebration.
Calaveras (skulls) are an iconic tradition of Día de los Muertos. The calaveras are ornately decorated with bright colors. They may contain the name of the deceased written across the forehead and often feature flowers and animals. These skulls are often made out of compressed sugar and water and may also have foil, icing, beads, ribbons, and feathers to aid in the decoration.
Children’s Books About Día de los Muertos
Want to introduce your children to the celebration of Día de los Muertos? Try one of these children’s picture books!
Día de los Muertos by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
Join the fun and festivities while learning about a different cultural tradition and brushing up on your Spanish vocabulary, as the town honors their dearly departed. It’s Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and children throughout the town are getting ready to celebrate! They decorate with colored streamers, calaveras (sugar skulls) and pan de muertos (bread of the dead). There are altars draped in cloth and covered in marigolds and twinkling candles and music fills the streets! Check out from your local library or purchase on Amazon.
Celebrate The World: Día de los Muertos by Hannah Eliot
This festive board book teaches that Día de los Muertos honors ancestors and loved ones who have passed. From sugar skulls to papel picado, this is a holiday that truly commemorates the cycle of life. You are sure to fall in love with the vibrant illustrations by Mexican illustrator Jorge Gutierrez. Check out from your local library or purchase on Amazon.
The Dead Family Diaz by P. J. Bracegir
A fresh and fun take on the Day of the Dead, this is a cute story with a “don’t be afraid of people who look different” message. Skeleton Angelito is not excited to visit the living during Día de los Muertos. His big sister has told him all about their horrifying bulgy eyes and squishy skin. So when Angelito is separated from his family in the Land of the Living, he’s petrified—until he makes a new friend. Check out from your local library or purchase on Amazon
Want to Learn About Other Holidays & Celebrations?
Discover other celebrations and festivals such as new year festivals, how others honor their family and loved ones, celebrations of freedom, and more with the Match the Pair: Worldwide Holidays & Celebrations. This memory matching game has two images of each holiday or celebration so that your child may work on finding the matching image. While the name of the festival is written on each card, a small booklet insert is included with a short summary of the celebrations and a suggested book to read together. Buy Now!
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