This beautiful legend recounts the love story of two young Aztecs, Xóchitl and Huitzilin, a romance from which the cempasuchil flower was born.
This wonderful love story began when the two young Aztecs were still little. They used to spend all their spare time playing and enjoying discovering their town together. Although Xochitl was a delicate girl, her family let her join in the adventures of her neighbor Huitzilin. With time, it was only natural that their love would flourish.
They particularly enjoyed hiking to the top of a near mountain where they would offer flowers to the Sun god Tonatiuh. The god seemed to appreciate their offering and would smile from the sky with his warm rays. On a particularly beautiful day at the top of the mountain, they swore that their love would last for ever.
When war broke out the lovers were separated as Huitzilin headed to fight and protect their homeland.
Soon the dreaded news of Huitzilin‘s death reached Xóchitl. She felt her world falling to pieces, her heart completely torn.
She decided to walk one last time to the top of the mountain and implore the sun god Tonatiuh, to somehow join her with her love Huitzilin. The sun moved by her prayers threw a ray that gently touched the young girl’s cheek. Instantly she turned into a beautiful flower of fiery colors as intense at the sun rays.
Suddenly a hummingbird lovingly touched the center of the flower with its beak.
It was Huitzilin that was reborn as a handsome hummingbird. The flower gently opened its 20 petals, filling the air with a mysterious and lovely scent.
The lovers would be always together as long as cempasuchil flowers and hummingbirds existed on earth.
This is how the cempasúchil flower came to be the Day of the Dead Flower.
From the beginning of time, man has felt the need to explain the mystery of life and death. Many civilizations and cultures have created rituals to try and give meaning to human existence.
· Where do we come from?· Why does life end? · Is there “life” after death? · If so, what kind of “life”? · Can we do something while alive so we can enjoy “life” after death? These are some of the questions man has asked himself in order to understand our finite existence on this earth.
To the indigenous peoples of Mexico, death was considered the passage to a new life and so the deceased were buried with many of their personal objects, which they would need in the hereafter. Many times even their pets were sacrificed so they would accompany their masters on their long journey.
From pre Columbian times, El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Mexico, and other Latin countries. This is a very special ritual, since it is the day in which the living remember their departed relatives. Sometimes, when people of other cultures hear for the first time about the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they mistakenly think it must be: gruesome, terrifying, scary, ugly and sad. Nothing further from the truth, Day of the Dead is a beautiful ritual in which Mexicans happily and lovingly remember their loved relatives that have died. Much like when we go to a graveyard to leave some lovely flowers on a tomb of a relative
This space is intended for the exchange of classroom activities, projects and ideas for the Day of the Dead, submitted by teachers. We sincerely thank all the teachers that have sent in their ideas!
Every year, we assign our Spanish 2 students (with a partner) to create an ofrenda in dedication to either a family or friend who has passed on that they have in common or a deceased celebrity they both respected. With 14 Spanish 2 classes, we completely take over our Media Center! It is a big competition at our school–around 500 kids compete. Some years we are publicized in the local newspaper and one year the winners were portrayed for a month in a local art museum.
To avoid possible controversy with parents, we start from day 1 explaining the importance of knowing about the holiday for sociological purposes.
after also watching a video and explaining the history to it, I emphasize that although it is a holiday where there are a lot of skulls and skeletons and death is being poked fun at, it is equally a holiday about remembering loved ones passed. When I say that everyone everywhere deals with grief differently, and for them it is comforting to think that loved ones have come back for that short period of time, everyone seems to understand. Audrey Irias ________________________________________
In our Spanish 1 class we did ofrendas over a person in our family, or a hero, or someone famous. We put their favorite food, their picture, what ever kind of music they liked, favorite color, and flowers, in a shoe box that we decorated. Jordan Cathey
I have been celebrating Dia de los Muertos since becoming a Spanish teacher 5 years ago. Instead of fussing with making enough sugar skulls for all of my students to decorate, I started buying those big, chocolate Archway cookies and “drawing” the shape of a skull on them in white frosting. Students sit in groups of 3 or 4 with a “pallet” of colored frosting in the center, and they use the frosting to decorate them using tooth picks. I judge the cookies and take lots of pictures… I tell them that once everyone in their group has had a picture taken, they can eat their cookie. It has been fun 🙂 Sra. Patterson
Each year after learning about ofrendas and cleaning the gravestones, my students in Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 make skeletons out of 6 milk jugs (It’s a McCall’s pattern #15184, from about 1995. They paint them with fabric paint and we hang them from the ceiling. Unwanted skeletons get donated to the Elementary School’s Halloween Party. It’s a project that they all look forward to and remember! Gretchen Callison
I teach Spanish I and Spanish II. I have steered away from making ofrendas, as I have heard horror stories about teachers who have been accused by parents. Many parents feel threatened when the child is asked to participate in making an altar for a deceased person. So… I find alternative ways to teach Day of the Dead. I usually spend an entire week on the topic. The first lesson is a basic introduction on the history of the holiday and a short video. The second day, the students complete a “Who, What, When, Where, Why” graphic organizer on Day of the Dead. The third day, we make sugar skulls. The fourth day, we paint the sugar skulls. The last day, we have a Day of the Dead celebration with the other Spanish I, II, and III classes. Each level of Spanish is responsible for bringing different items to the celebration. Laura WhiteTo help Teachers educate parents about the Day of the Dead we have an excellentarticle: Common Misconceptions About the Day of the Dead
The celebration of the Days of the Dead is my favorite holiday in my high school classroom. My Spanish One students create decorated skulls using the plastic skulls that are available wherever Halloween items are sold, acrylic paints and silk flowers. My Spanish Two students create and decorate a tombstone using wood or cardboard, paint and silk flowers. They dedicate the tombstone to a deceased family member and they attach to it a short story that they have composed about the life of the deceased. The skulls and tombstones surround a large ofrenda in our classroom. On November 1, students are greeted by a trail of marigold petals (they are really
cut pieces of orange and yellow construction paper)on the floor starting at the door and leading up to the ofrenda. As the students leave, the “petals” do end up in the hallways (and even the student parking lot!). Everyone always knows when we are celebrating this wonderful holiday. And our custodians smile and are very understanding. I also read them a related story, and we eat pan de muertos baked by volunteers. We also make our own “sangria” using grape juice, punch and fruit slices.
Stoney Creek High School
Rochester Hills, Michigan
After studying the traditions of El Dia De Los Muertos and viewing a slideshow of skeleton figurines, Advanced Art students create their own calaveras figurines in honor of their ancestors, a hero, or loved one that has passed away. They study human proportions, draw skeletons, create a proportionate wire armature and then build up their calaveras with Sculpey clay. They mount them onto wooden boards and decorate with extra detail to create a setting. Students add the title by imprinting into metal tooling foil. They love this project! Then they decorate their display in the cafeteria or library with handmade papel picado banners. Suzanne Limbert
I teach Day of the Dead to my 6th grader art classes. I focus on two aspects the holiday and the skeleton artwork. A 1/3 of our students are Hispanic so this is a great cultural lesson. We watch a movie on it. We discuss the holiday and the Mexican view of death. I show them artwork created for this holiday. Then I teach them how to draw a skeleton. I tell them that all good artists have to know how the human body is put together or they can’t draw a human correctly. I discuss the skeleton studies of Leonardo Da Vinci. This makes it an art study for those who are uncomfortable with Halloween. We do very simple skeletons, I use the drawing basics from the book Rattle Your Bones (Scholastic). They each then draw 2 skeletons on black paper using white pencils and other color pencils, markers & crayons that color on dark paper. They have to show 2 skeletons doing something that they like to do, like skate boarding, sports, cheer leading, etc. They enjoy this lesson. I do it year round because I have 4 rotations of 6th graders each year.
Lakeview Middle School
Winter Garden, FL
I have students create tombstones. Students will write their future story on them, how they want to be remembered. I can teach future tense, and glimpse at their expectations as well. Julieta Goode
In Mexico both the father’s and mother’s last name are used as a person’s last name. So a person might be named Pedro Ramírez López. Pedro (first name) Ramírez (Father’s last name) López (mother’s last name) . All of their official documents such as birth certificate, passport, school certificates, show both last names.
Interestingly, now the parent’s of a child can choose if the father’s or the mother’s last name will be the first last name of their children.
Here are the ten most popular Mexican last names:
Hernández 3,430,027 people’s last name is Hernández Hernández means son of Hernan. Hernan Cortez was the conquistador of what is now Mexico.
García is a Vasque last name meaning young or young warrior.
Lòpez means son of Lope
Martìnez means son of Martín
Rodrìguez means son of Rodrigo.
González means son of Gonzalo
Pérez means son of Pedro
Sánchez means son of Sancho
Gómez son of Gome
Flores Means flowers.
The 10 most popular first names are:
María Mary, very popular used in a composed name such as Maria Fernanda, Maria Guadalupe, Maria Sofia, Dulce María.
Guadalupe Guadalupe is a very popular name that can be feminine or masculine.