More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth, and to honor the dead, whom the native people believed came back to visit during the month long ritual. Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life.
To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards moved it so it coincided with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (Nov. 1 and 2), which is when it is celebrated today.
In rural Mexico, people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites and have picnic meals featuring the favorite food of their deceased loved ones. In the United States and in Mexico's larger cities families shrines - decorated with flowers, food, lighted candles and pictures of the deceased.
Día de Muertes Project Ideas (schools, PYOP studios, or home):
- Mayco Bisque to decorate: MB-1382 Sugar Skull Box, MB-1252 Skull Cup.
- Projects - see gallery below.
- Create an example of an alter or shrine - use a cigar box or a paperboard box from a craft store. Decorate with paper flowers, candy, gifts and other offerings.
Making Paper Flowers:
Supplies: ￼1 package of multicolored tissue or crepe paper
￼, 1 package of green pipe cleaners,
Directions: Take four to five sheets of the tissue paper and layer them (if you want multicolored flowers, use different colors). Cut into 8-inch squares. Keeping the sheets layered, take one set of squares and fold it like an accordion so it looks like a thin rectangle. At the center of the rectangle, cut a small v-shaped notch on both sides. Take the end of a pipe cleaner and twist it around the notch. With the stem pointing straight down, gently pull up one layer of tissue into the center. Pull up the remaining layers, one by one. Repeat for the other side of the flower. Once all the layers are pulled up, fluff them in place to look natural. Continue making more flowers with the remaining stacks of squares.
Tips and Variations: For sturdier stems, wrap two pipe cleaners together. Cut smaller or larger squares to change the size of your flowers. Add more layers for thicker flowers or less layers for thinner ones. For a shiny effect, dip the top edges in white glue and then dip in loose glitter. Make smaller flowers and string them together as garland.