Yesterday, the Upper Elementary students celebrated El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday focusing on honoring and remembering friends and family members who have died, and to support their spiritual journey. The intent of the holiday is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and comments of the living directed to them.
The Upper Elementary had help learning about the traditions from a special guest, Ms. Gloria, who discussed with them the various traditions on the day, including the building of an altar called an ofrenda, which they placed around and on top of the mantle in one of the classrooms. They included beautiful handmade paper flowers (marigolds are the traditional flower used in Mexico’s modern holiday), paper cut-outs, sugar skulls, and the favorite foods of the departed, as well as items, photographs, and notes to the children’s deceased loved ones.
One student brought a picture of his beloved dog, along with a dog biscuit. Another remembered his grandfather with a photo and a miniature basketball, as this was his favorite sport. Each child had the opportunity to say a bit about their loved one as they place the offering on the mantle.
Candles represent the light needed to guide the spirit back.
One student worked to free plaster of paris skulls he had made over the course of a few days. They turned out great!
As part of the celebration, students took time to decorate in bright, vivid colors, skulls and flowers.
Ms. Gloria brought from a local Mexican bakery an de muerto, (“bread of the dead”), which was a sweet, light egg bread flavored with oranges, sugar, and cinnamon and decorated to represent the bones and skull of the deceased. Some of the children helped her in the kitchen to prepare the traditional Mexican drinking chocolate. It all smelled delicious!
And what celebration would be complete without music? A group of young musicians learned the lyrics to La Calaca Flaca by Oscar Chavesz. The lyrics were, of course, in Spanish. They practiced outside in the beautiful fall weather while the other students prepared decorations and food inside.
As to be expected during the composition of new music to accompany the lyrics, there were disagreements and bumps along the way, but they figured it out just in time!
Mr. Justin did not shy away from helping with the choreography! What a good sport!
The presentation of the music and traditions was lovely, and a wonderful way to foster the Montessori value of global citizenship, during which children begin to identify themselves as being connected to a world community. This exploration into a tradition to which they may not have had previous exposure is one way to cultivate a global and diverse outlook, a sense of personal responsibility, and a respect for humanity.