Life,  Madrehood

Free and Fun Ways to Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos!

Last night we went to a Day of the Dead celebration at a clinic in West St. Paul. I overheard how one parent never heard about the holiday until they watched Pixar’s Coco! There are so many ways to expose children (or yourself) to the holiday. You don’t have to be Latinx or speak Spanish to celebrate it. 

At La Clinica in West Saint Paul

Celebrating this tradition holds significance for me not just as the parent of an Afrolatino baby but as someone who has grieved family. When my father passed away, we did not mention him much after the funeral was over. After I had my son, whom I named after my father, I thought about him more. Talking about him, thinking about him, and honoring him keeps his spirit alive. 

This holiday teaches us to honor those who have passed on. I believe that mourning nourishes our spirits too, even if death can be difficult to talk about. 

Will you be celebrating the Day of the Dead this year? This will be one of many with Chris. I wanted to share how I’ve tried celebrating with my son so far. 

Sugar Skull Cookie Decorating

If you’re like me and you love baking, skip getting store-bought sugar cookies and make your own! You can even whip up your own icing. I didn’t have time to do elaborate decorations but adding some Reese’s Pieces or M&M’s for the eyes, nose, and mouth does the trick. 

Don’t judge. It was delicious.

Watching Day of the Dead Cartoons

The YouTube algorithm added some nice songs to our usual mix of children’s songs in Spanish. Chris likes to dance to this one. I also get to pick up on some Spanish! Did you know that skull in Spanish is calavera? Calaca is the full body skeleton used at Day of the Dead festivals. 

DIY Altars

Here’s something I learned about altars: different levels exist to represent the journey of a spirit in the after life. An altar usually has offerings like food and drink (I saw Jarritos on the altar I look at last night), photos of deceased loved ones, and symbolic decor such as candles and marigold flowers. 

A Dia de Los Muertos altar with offerings, candles, and marigold flowers

No need to go all out at home if you don’t want to. Here’s a great DIY altar tutorial that I found through a Facebook group called Teach Your Kids Spanish led by Spanishmama. Any tissue paper or construction paper can go towards making your flowers. 

Attending Local Celebrations

I’m not much of an extrovert and I know any mom would prefer staying inside this time of year. Don’t let that hold you back. I’m glad we drove out to be around other people. I connected with other biracial families and met very nice people. Plus the free tamales and sweet bread meant one less meal to cook! 

Check Facebook for local events. Or even your community center. We found out about last night’s celebration through our family clinic. Your library might have something going on too.

Read Books to Children 

Bilingual books are double the fun! All that reading puts Chris to sleep.

Here’s a huge list to get your hands on. You can find some of them at your local library or purchase one to keep your own personal copy. Either way, you’ll get to practice your Spanish with your little one. It’s a win-win! 

So many resources out there exist that it shouldn’t be a hassle learning all about the Day of the Dead! 

How are you celebrating Dia de Los Muertos this year? 

2 Comments

  • K E Garland

    My mother died when I was 16. Like you, I think it would’ve been beneficial to have some type of continued ceremony/tradition.

    Also, my sister keeps an altar in her home, right off the living room <3

    • Errol De Jesus

      That’s wonderful that she keeps an altar! I had to take ours down because the baby kept climbing it lol

      Losing a parent is hard and talking about it is too. But our loved ones live in our memories of them. They deserve to be honored in my opinion. Thank you for sharing!

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