NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ902135
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Oct
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0036-6463
Commemorating the Ancestors
Mack, Stevie; Williams, Kathleen
SchoolArts: The Art Education Magazine for Teachers, v110 n2 p21-23 Oct 2010
The festivals of Mexico are renowned for their colorful decorations, energetic music, exuberant parades, and cultural significance. "Los Dias de los Muertos," the Days of the Dead, is no exception. Often misunderstood by those who live elsewhere, this festival commemorating the dead is one of Mexico's most important holidays. As Americans prepare for Halloween at the end of October, the people of Mexico turn their attention to the traditions surrounding the Days of the Dead. A vibrant cultural synthesis, Los Dias de los Muertos combines the Catholic traditions of All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day (November first and second, respectively) with pre-Columbian concepts of death that have been a part of Mexican society since ancient times. Preparations for Los Dias de los Muertos include making special foods and sweets, cleaning the graves of loved ones, and making memorial altars called "ofrendas." An ofrenda usually consists of a table that is placed in front of an arch made of sugar cane or bamboo, or a wooden frame, which is decorated with marigolds and a variety of fruits and vegetables. The table in front of the arch or frame is covered with a nice cloth. Photos of the deceased are placed on the ofrenda along with flowers and candles. Special foods, bottles of soda, candies, and loaves of bread shaped like bones (called "pan de muerto") are common offerings. Burners with "copal," a strong smelling plant resin, are also placed on ofrendas. A traditional ofrenda will have items representing the elements of water, fire, earth, and wind. A glass of water is offered to quench the thirst of the souls who have come to visit. Fire is represented by candles, and the earth by fruits, vegetables, or other foods. Tissue-paper banners of papel picado flutter in the breeze, representing the wind. Often, a small dish of salt is added to purify the air. Ofrendas are decorated lavishly with sugar skulls, papier-mache skeletons, and more. An ofrenda is a testament to the creativity of its maker as well as a moving memorial to deceased loved ones. In this article, the authors suggest making an ofrenda as a class project. (Contains 1 online resource.)
Davis Publications. 50 Portland Street, Worcester, MA 01608. Tel: 800-533-2847; Tel: 508-754-7201; Fax: 508-753-3834; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A