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How to explain día de los Muertos and activities for bilingual kids

Día de los Muertos for Kids – A day of joy

Día de los Muertos is probably the most colourful Mexican festivity and maybe even the most popular of Mexican celebrations around the world. With such a name, I always thought it is a sad festivity, but I learned that this is completely wrong, it is actually a day of joy. But how do I explain it to my kids? It is a bit weird if you are not familiar with it…no worries, we have you covered. We have pulled together a quick guide, our Día de los Muertos for kids.

 

What is Día de los muertos all about? And why is it a day of joy?

Día de los muertos is the day in which our ancestors and deceased loved ones are remembered. A day in which our loved ones can awaken from their eternal sleep and can for one day re-join the celebrations and share food and drink with us.

All over Latin America we celebrate the Catholic tradition of All Saints day on the 1st of November. (Cute Anecdote: 1st of November was my dad’s birthday, which was always a bank holiday, it took me a while to understand how that worked. I truly believed he was soooo good that the whole world celebrated his birthday with a day off from school and work.)

Día de los Muertos is a combination of this very Christian All Saint’s Day celebration with ancient Aztec traditions of honouring the deceased.

Mexican families usually place an altar at the cemetery.  For many migrant families, however this is not possible as they live far away.  So the only way to honour the deceased and celebrate their lives, is setting up an altar at home. So, what do you do on Día de los Muertos and how can I celebrate it with my kids?

El altar del día de los muertos. How kids can be part of it.

 

Central part of el Día de los muertos celebrations is the altar full of “ofrendas” (offerings).  Families jointly decorate the altar to best celebrate the lives of their loved ones that have passed away. Usually the altar has pictures of the deceased loved ones, they are decorated with flowers, skulls, candles, water and dry foods. If it is something your ancestor enjoyed eating even better. The more colourful the altar the better.

The idea behind the skulls (calaveras) and the day as a whole is to accept that death as part of everyday life and to celebrate it.

Let your kids help you setting up the altar and decide what should be included. While doing this this, maybe you have some beautiful anecdotes or memories you would like to share with them.

Pan de muerto a great way to celebrate Día de los muertos with kids

Home-made pan de muertos activity with kids

 

 

The pan de muerto is the most traditional food for Día de los Muertos. The idea is that the family shares this bread with the loved ones that are not with us anymore.

The bread’s round shape represents the human body, while the long bits on the top of the bread represent the bones, and the round dot in the middle represents the skull.

If you feel like making it at home it is not difficult, we have a recipe in English and Spanish for you a bit further down.

Skulls & Calaveras for Día de los Muertos for Kids

 

Día de los Muertos celebration skull cookies

Skulls and calaveras are everywhere for día de los muertos. Even as edible Candy. The significance of the skull and/or skeleton on this day is to honour the cycle of life, to remember happy moments and accept death as part of our everyone’s existence.

Día de los Muertos is an intimate family tradition that celebrates the lives of loved ones that are not with us anymore. It is a way to honour their memory.

Día de los Muertos for Kids – Activities for Bilingual Children

How can you celebrate día de los muertos with your bilingual kids? And get some extra quality language time.

1) Make an altar for your deceased loved ones, let the kids help you decide what should go on it. Only use your home language, when decorating the altar.

2) Make sugar cookies in the shape of skulls and decorate the with loads of colours. Talk about the shapes and colours.

3) Adventurous? Want to home bake a pan de Muertos?  Check out this recipe a recipe recommendation from a Mexican friend in English and Spanish.

4) Read a book about el día de los Muertos. Here a few books we really enjoyed:

       La Catrina- Emociones by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein

       Día de los Muertos by Hannah Elliot and illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez

       The Spirit of Tío Fernando: A Day of the Dead Story/Una historia del Día de los Muertos by Janice Levy and Morella Fuenmayor 

5) Talk with your children about your ancestors and tell them the family story. Kids love to know more about what went on before they were here. Any fun anecdotes are a great way to practice your home language.

6) Fill the house with colourful flowers. The typical flower used in Mexico is the Cempaxochitl, a mouthful. If you can’t find them in the market you can make them out of paper

7) Make some dia de Muertos themed arts and crafts to decorate the altar. Growing up bilingual has some great ideas. Even papel picado in many colours is an easy project.

8) I always loved those beautiful painted faces for día de los Muertos. So why not some día de los Muertos make-up action with your kids. Check this tutorial by Shonagh Scott

Día de los Muertos for kids make-up

We hope you enjoy these ideas around Día de los Muertos for kids and how to celebrate it with your bilingual kids. Please reach out with any comments or questions we are always looking forward to hearing from you. Reach out to gaby@timtimtom.com .

And if you are looking for a special present this Christmas for that special bilingual child in your life, we home some ideas https://timtimtom.com/shop/

Feliz Día de los Muertos!

 

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