Celebrate Day of the Dead with these fantastic projects

Day of the Dead Parade

Day of the Dead in Mexico

Day of the Dead, Mexico’s biggest holiday and one of the most exciting celebrations anywhere, is just around the corner. Store displays are packed with sugary pan de muertos, a sweet egg bread often shaped like skulls or topped with crossed links of dough meant to symbolize crossbones. Elaborately bejeweled sugar skulls (calaveras) glitter in store windows and brighten people’s homes. Pots of bright orange marigolds (cempasúchil) start appearing in altars all over town.

Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, Mexico, marigolds

The Day of the Dead in Mexico falls on November 1 and 2 and is a blend of the Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day along with indigenous Aztec traditions. Over these days people gather to reconnect with deceased family members who return to their earthly home to reunite and celebrate with loved ones for a few days. Stunning ofrendas, or altars, are erected at home with candles, photographs, sugar skulls, and the deceased’s favorite stuff…snacks, musical instruments, books, clothes, are common. Bright orange marigolds are everywhere…they adorn the altars, and the petals are used to create beautiful pathways so the dead can find their way. Towering arches made with marigolds or sugar canes mark the entrance to the altars. Whimsical skeletons (calacas) are favorite decorations around town. Festive paper banners banners featuring skeletons, birds, floral designs, and more flutter across town squares and homes. This is called papel picado (punched paper) and it’s a Mexican folk art tradition.

Family and friends also celebrate at the cemetery, where they clean the graves, leave out favorite food and drink of the deceased, and the spend the night socializing and remembering. Graves are decorated with marigolds and elaborate sand paintings.

Parades, elaborately decorated parade floats, revelers dressed as rakish skeletons, and joyous street parties are common sights.

Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, Ajiji, Mexico, Skull Makeup

This year we’re going to celebrate in Morélia, one of the biggest Day of the Dead locations in Mexico. I can’t wait! Gorgeous photos of cemeteries, ofrendas, partying skeletons, and more will be on the blog next week. In the meantime, here are some fantastic project links to help you celebrate Day of the Dead at home.

Day-of-the-Dead for kids: Projects & links

Say of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, skull cookies recipe

Photo by sweetsugarbelle.com

Get into the Dia de Los Muertos spirit at home with these classic decorations, projects, and recipes. Homeschoolers take note!

Make your own sugar skulls

For molds, decorations, and ideas check out Mexican Sugar Skull or Celebrate-Day-of-the-Dead. Also here are some fantastic downloadable-PDF sugar-skull coloring pages. Little kids will love them. Older kids can have fun drawing their own skulls.

Make sugar-skull & skeleton cookies

Spend an afternoon making these stunning Dia de los Muertos cookies: Skull Cookies with Royal IcingSkeleton Cookies with Royal Icing, and Pretty Marigold Cookies.

Do your own Day of the Dead skull makeup

Here are some video tutorials that show you how: Day of the Dead Makeup Tutorial or the Sugar Skull Face Paint Tutorial for Dia de los Muertos. And of course Pinterest is always a good source for inspiration…check out the Day of the Dead Makeup board

Put up an ofrenda, or altar, to honor your deceased loved ones

alter, ofrends, day of the dead, dia de los muertos, mexico, papal picado

These articles eplain how to set up your own ofrenda: Create Your Day of the Dead Altar (from Hispanic Culture Online) and How to Create a Day of the Dead Altar (from the Mija Chronicles). Pinterest has some good examples on their Dia Altars (Ofrendas) board.

Bake pan de muertos

It’s easy to make Day-of-the-Dead bread at home. To get started, try these recipes: Make Pan de Muerto at Home (from Patti’s Mexican Table) and Mexican Bread of the Dead (from Mexico in My Kitchen). Muy Bueno Cookbook has an excellent version of Pan de Muerto with orange and anise in the dough.

Cut your own papal picado banners

Papel picado is a form of Mexican folk art where templates are used to cut patterns or designs into stacks of colored tissue paper. (See it in the last photo of the altar?) This video shows you how to make your own papel picado: How to Make Papel Picado for Day of the Dead. The Tacoma Art Museum has some nice papel picado templates you can use.


Dead of the Dead, Dia de Los Muertos, Mexico, the Calivera Catrina



{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sweetsugarbelle November 1, 2013 at 9:26 am

Thank you so much for sharing! I love Day of the Dead also :-).
Sweetsugarbelle recently posted..Silly Spider and Bat CookiesMy Profile


2 Kathryn November 7, 2013 at 7:57 pm

The makeup on those ladies in the pic is really awesome. So are the cookies!!


3 Renee November 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm

It’s all so beautiful, isn’t it. Next year I’m making those cookies for sure. 🙂


4 Kerri November 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm

What a wonderful way to remember loved ones! Looks like you guys had lots of fun.
Kerri recently posted..Sydney’s Corner: Goreme TurkeyMy Profile


5 Renee November 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Kerri, it was loads of fun. 🙂


6 Zoe Reed December 12, 2013 at 4:15 am

I have never heard about this date in Mexican culture. Now I’m planning to know much more about it.
Thank you for sharing this information)
Zoe Reed recently posted..5 Budget Hotels in Perth: Pay Less and Rest With ComfortMy Profile


7 Renee December 12, 2013 at 10:20 am

Hi, Zoe, thanks for commenting. Yes, Day of the Dead is unique and really fun for anyone visiting Mexico. If you ever get a chance to come to visit Mexico during Oct 31 – Nov 2, definitely jump on it.


8 Lucie November 2, 2014 at 9:57 am

Can I use one of your pictures for a school project? If so, how would you like me to MLA cite it? Thank you, Lucie


9 Renee November 3, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Hi, Lucie. Thanks for asking! I will email you…


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