Day of the Dead El Dia de Muertos

Day of the Dead: Celebration, History & Origins

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


Pan de Muerto ~ Day of the Dead Bread

Ingredients1½ cups Flour

 ½ cups Sugar

1t Salt

2 Packets Dry Yeast

1t Anis Seed

½ cup Milk½ cup Water½ cup Butter4  Eggs

4½ cups Flour


  • Mix all dry ingredients together except the 4 1/2 cups of flour
  • In a small pan, heat the milk, the water, and the butter. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture.
  • Beat well.
  • Mix in the eggs and the first 1 1/2 cups of flour. Beat.
  • Little by little add in the rest of the flour.
  • Knead the mixture on a floured board for 10 minutes.
  • Put the dough in a greased bowl and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size.
  • Punch the dough down and reshape. On top put some strips of dough simulating bones, and a little ball (tear).
  • Let it rise another hour.
  • Bake at 350° F  for about 40 minute


1/2 cup Sugar
1/3 cup fresh OrangeJuice
2 tablespoons grated Orange Zest

  Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.
  Sprinkle on colored sugar while glaze is still damp.

Feliz Día de Muertos!

Day of the Dead Teacher Suggested Activities

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

Day of the Dead Altar- Ofrenda Steve Bridger

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 White  To help Teachers educate parents about the Day of the Dead we have an excellent article: 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.

NancyAnn Tomaszycki
Stoney Creek High School
Rochester Hills, Michigan

Day of the Dead Skeletons ©

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.

Stacey Fisher
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

10 Most Popular Last & First Names


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:

Girls’ Names:

María  Mary, very popular used in a composed name such as Maria Fernanda, Maria Guadalupe, Maria Sofia, Dulce María.

Ximena (Jimena)

Sofia  Sophy

Guadalupe   Guadalupe is a very popular name that can be feminine or masculine.



Juana  Joan


Valeria  Valery


Jose Joseph

Jesus  Jesus

Alejandro  Alexander

Miguel Ángel Michael Angel

Eduardo Edward

José Luis Joseph Louis

Juan Carlos John Charles

Fernando Ferdinand

Diego Diego

David David

Jorge George









The Legend of Popocatepetl & Iztaccíhuatl A Love Story

The view that adorns the world’s largest city – Mexico City – is enhanced by the majesty of two of the highest volcanoes in the hemisphere: Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl. The presence of these enormous millenary volcanoes has been of great significance for the different societies that have admired and revered them, being a source of inspiration for the many legends about their origin and creation.  


Among these, the best known are two below. Thousands of years ago, when the Aztec Empire dominated the Valley of Mexico, it was common practice to subject neighboring towns and to require a mandatory tax. It was then that the chief of the Tlaxcaltecas, bitter enemies of the Aztecs, weary of this terrible oppression, decided to fight for his people’s freedom.

The chief had a daughter named Iztaccihuatl: the most beautiful of all the princesses, who had professed her love for young Popocatepetl, one of her father’s people and the most handsome warrior. Both professed a deep love for each other, so before leaving for war, Popocatepetl asked the chief for the hand of Princess Iztaccihuatl.

The father gladly agreed and promised to welcome him back with a big celebration to give him his daughter’s hand if he returned victorious from the battle. The brave warrior accepted, prepared everything and departed keeping in his heart the promise that the princess would be waiting for him to consummate their love. Soon afterward a love rival of Popocatepetl, jealous of the love they professed to each other, told Princess Iztaccihuatl that her beloved had died in combat.

Crushed and overwhelmed by sadness, the princess died without even knowing that it was a lie. Popocatepetl returned victorious to his people, hoping to find his beloved princess. Upon arrival, he received the terrible news of the death of Iztaccihuatl.

El Español: The History of the Spanish Language


Spanish is one of the most important languages in the world. But what exactly is language?


Language emerged due to man’s need to communicate with others. In prehistoric times, men communicated through very simple oral, and sometimes written, language, and made drawings that highlighted their adventures and experiences. 


The Greeks developed the first alphabet, giving a specific sound to each sign. This alphabet was the precursor of the Roman alphabet, which is very similar to the one we use today. 

A language is the mirror of its culture. Through it, through the words of each language, we can observe the peculiarities or characteristics of the people that speak it.      

Language brings with it the flavors, colors, and smells of each country.  For example, when we hear the word, fiesta our mind brings forth images of Mexican joyfulness, and what can we say about a resounding Ole What do we imagine? ….. of course!….. the Spanish traditions.


And through language, we express not only our opinions and thoughts but our history, our cultural roots, our origins.

Today there are about 5000 different languages spoken in the world. The most frequently spoken languages are English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian and Arabic.


The world is increasingly interdependent; this means that we constantly have to deal with people or companies from other countries. Individuals who have the skill to master another language will be more able to be successful in this new world. There are many work opportunities for people who know how to speak another language.


In particular, learning Spanish gives us the possibility to communicate with an entire continent! Around 400 million people speak Spanish as their native language. From Spain to Argentina!