The end of October is the time of all things scary and spooky. Pumpkins, ghosts, and skeletons galore. But occasionally, all these Halloween-y things get confused with a cherished Hispanic holiday: the Day of the Dead.
You might have seen depictions of this holiday with calaveras (skulls and skeletons), marigolds, or pan de muerto (sweet bread). If you are familiar with this celebration or want to learn facts about Día de los Muertos or ideas to celebrate, read on to learn all about this cherished holiday.
What is Día de los Muertos?
Día de los Muertos in Spanish, or the Day of the Dead in English, is a two-day celebration for those who have passed away. During this time, tradition says the spirits of loved ones come back to visit and spend time with their family as they remember them.1
When is the Day of the Dead Celebrated?
Traditionally, this two-day celebration stretches from November 1 to November 2. The first day is for remembering infants and children who’ve passed, and the second is for adults.2
Día de los Muertos Traditions
There are many ways to celebrate Día de los Muertos. Traditionally, families go to the resting place of their loved ones to remember them and celebrate their lives. But even if they can’t physically be there (or if there is no physical place to visit), you can create an ofrenda (an offering) and put up photos of them or momentos that they loved at an altar.1
You’ll also find that Día de los Muertos celebrations often include marigolds. These flowers make beautiful decorations because their unique fragrance and bright colors are said to help guide the people who have passed from the land of the dead to the land of the living.2
Day of the Dead Food
When visiting a loved one’s final resting place or constructing your ofrenda at home, traditionally, people bring their favorite foods from when they were living. Pan de muertos (Mexican bread of the dead) is a sweet bread that families can enjoy but also will set out for their relatives when they come to the land of the living.3
What are the Differences Between Halloween and the Day of the Dead?
Even though they’re close on the calendar, Halloween and the Day of the Dead have nothing in common. Halloween, originally All Hallows’ Eve, started as a festival to ward off ghosts and evil spirits.4
On the other hand, Día de los Muertos is a celebration of remembrance. Yes, there are calaveras and mention of long-gone loved ones crossing to spend time with you, but there is nothing spooky about it — just the opposite. It’s about honoring your loved ones, celebrating their lives, and wishing them bliss and contentment in the afterlife.
Día de los Muertos Activities and Crafts for Kids
There are many ways to learn about the Day of the Dead and the traditions of this beloved holiday. For example, if your child wants to construct an ofrenda at home but doesn’t have a good space for it, you can make a smaller version by incorporating all the elements into a smaller, portable, shoebox-sized altar.
You can also try making pan de muertos, paper marigolds, calaveras de azúcar, and handmade frames. These crafts and activities can be used to decorate an ofrenda or to teach kids about this holiday.
Remember, although there is a lot of decor and even costumes representing the Day of the Dead, this is a special holiday in the Hispanic community and an essential part of their culture. Be aware of the fine line between appreciating and appropriating it, especially if you aren’t part of this community.
Day of the Dead Movies
Although the holiday celebrates those we love who have died, death and losing people is still a complex topic with difficult feelings. Sometimes, especially for younger kiddos, the best way to learn about the Day of the Dead is with a family movie. Check out “Coco” from Disney and join young Miguel on his journey to learn more about his family and what it’s like to visit the Land of the Dead.
Another great film for the family is “The Book of Life.” This movie follows a trio of friends who meet many mythological characters in the Land of the Living and Land of the Dead, like Xibalba, La Muerte, and the Candle Maker. Ultimately, the main character, Manolo, will face his fears to be reunited with his family and sweetheart.
Día de los Muertos Books for Kids and Songs
Reading and singing are great ways to begin or end a day of activities while learning about the Day of the Dead.
Día de los Muertos (Celebrate the World)
This is an easy beginner board book for young readers, or storytime, to learn some of the basics of Día de los Muertos and its significance.
Mi Familia: Celebrating the Day of the Dead
Come with Valentina as she celebrates Día de Los Muertos with her family and learns their family history.
The Spirit of Tío Fernando: A Day of The Dead Story
Follow Nando as he and his mom prepare for Día de los Muertos to remember his Uncle Fernando.
A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead
When Rosita loses her grandmother, she remembers and celebrates her life on Día de los Muertos.
Kids Song About the Day of the Dead
This song is inspired by Día de los Muertos traditions, storytelling, singing, dancing, and more.
Sesame Street: Día de los Muertos
Sing and dance with friends from “Sesame Street” as Rosita prepares to celebrate and remember her loved ones.
Día de los Muertos is a well-known, beloved Hispanic holiday that celebrates loved ones who have passed and allows families to remember their time in this life together. Discover all the facts and traditions about the Day of the Dead through activities, learning opportunities, and films that remind us that even though our loved ones may be gone, they are never forgotten and will live on in our hearts and memories.