UNESCO proclaimed the “Indigenous Festivity dedicated to the Dead,” or Día de Muertos celebration, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003, and the proclamation was inscribed in 2008. El Día de los Muertos has been a tradition and celebration as part of Mexico’s culture for over 3,000 years. This tradition has developed over time, and different regions of Mexico have different ways of celebrating.
For more than two decades, The Post Oak School has celebrated Día de los Muertos. The students learn about the significance of Día de Los Muertos, work collaboratively to prepare Day of the Dead offerings, write reports, and create presentations to share this tradition with our school community. The celebration is particularly delightful for children because of the strong sense of love and family appreciation expressed through arts and crafts, treats, and flowers. (Read more about Middle School celebrations from the student perspective here!)
Post Oak’s celebration is one of many that happen around the world in honor of the holiday. During this time of the year, the families in many towns in Mexico gather to celebrate Día de los Muertos. The streets, buildings, and public places are decorated with papel picado, cut-out paper. Bakeries sell delicious fresh pan de muerto, bread of the dead, and the markets are filled with the strong aroma of cempazuchitl or flor de muerto, flower of the dead. Children are excited, buying the sweet calaveras de azucar, sugar skulls.
In many places, you may see people dressed up like the fancy La Catrina. This skull was created by the illustrator and cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada in the early 1900s and immortalized by Diego Rivera in one of his murals. This elegant esqueleto is not a scary one but a beautifully decorated calavera. This is a time of celebration; the dead are visiting the living. In the house, people prepare ofrendas or offerings to receive the visit of the deceased loved ones. This is a special occasion to remember and honor the relatives and friends who died. It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit their families on November 1 and 2 of each year. Each altar, or prepared table, is decorated with la fotografía, the photograph of the relative who passed away, cempazuchitl flowers, candles, and copal. These are placed to guide the spirit to the altar; a glass of agua, water, is set in case they are thirsty after the long journey back home. Their favorite food is left on the table. The dead will be happy to feast on tamales, mole, atole, and of course, pan de muerto y calaveras de azúcar and will be glad to see the items that were special to them on the ofrenda.
In el cementerio, the cemetery, the graves are cleaned and decorated with beautiful cempazuchitl flowers, candles, and offerings. During the night, it is time to celebrate with the dead!
We hope the school community joins us in this celebration of life.
For additional resources, check out this Padlet with links to reading sources shared with our classroom!