Dia de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday that is gaining exposure and popularity in the United States. So, what exactly is it, and how can we celebrate it?
First, let’s just get one thing out of the way—Day of the Dead is not Halloween. Although it is somewhat connected to All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar, Day of the Dead is not a time to dress up in costume and scare your friends. In fact, the whole point of the holiday is not to be scared of death. It’s a time to recognize that death is a part of life, so why not have a little fun with it and celebrate?
Day of the Dead is a tradition that goes back before the Spanish conquered Mexico. The indigenous Mexicans believed that for a short time each year, our deceased loved ones could come back for a few days to be with us. It was a time to remember those that have died, and to celebrate everything that they loved. Nowadays, families take picnics to the cemetery and decorate graves. In their homes, they will build altares, dedicated to a deceased loved one, and decorated with their pictures, things they loved in life, and even their favorite foods. Here are some ways the library can help you get into the spirit of this lovely holiday:
Attend Viva El Folklore's Monday Night Program!
Next Monday, Latin dance group Viva El Folklore will perform in the ballroom at 7:00 pm. This is a free event, and no tickets are required. Around 35 dancers of all ages will perform, with a particular emphasis on traditional Mexican folk dance in honor of the upcoming holiday. For a taste, check out this clip of Viva El Folklore dancers performerming the Jalisco.
Read a book!
We have many great books that talk about Dia de los Muertos. Try FUNNY BONES by Duncan Tonatiuah to learn both about the holiday and a famous Mexican icon. Read I REMEMBER ABUELITO to the family to get a sense of how we can remember our ancestors. If movies are more your speed, check out THE BOOK OF LIFE on DVD for some fun imagery based on Dia de los Muertos.
Make some food!
Sugar skulls are a pretty typical treat for the holiday, but they can be tricky to find here in Utah, and even trickier to make without a mold. Instead, check out a recipe for my favorite Day of the Dead treat—Pan de Muerto, or bread of the Dead! This bread goes really well with Mexican hot chocolate, and together they make a quintessential fall evening treat. You can find the recipe in some of our Mexican cookbooks, here and here.
Day of the Dead is all about remembering our deceased ancestors, so what better way to celebrate than diving in to your family history? Make a family tree, or tell each other stories from your family’s heritage. Interview your grandparents about their lives, or even write down some of your own memories for posterity. Check out the 920s in nonfiction for more ideas.
My favorite Dia de los Muertos craft is to make flor de muerto, or flowers of the dead. These flowers (called cempazúchitl in the native tongue) are associated with the dead and are often planted in cemeteries. They are also used by the thousands during Dia de los Muertos! They decorate graves, altares, homes, shops, and streets. You can make your own simple flor de muerto by using tissue paper, scissors, and a stapler. If you are between the ages of 12-18, come participate in our Sugar Skull coloring contest the first week of November! Your artwork will be on display in the Teen Corner for a week and the top pick gets a prize! Check out the 1st Floor reference desk for more details.