El Dia de Los Muertos
I will freely & gleefully acknowledge that I was (and still am!) an uberdork who dressed up for Halloween and went trick-or-treating until my senior year of high school. I love Halloween to bits and now that my husband and I are living in our very own house, right around the corner from an elementary school, I am keenly anticipating dressing up like a crazy little old lady this weekend and handing out sweets. Due to religious objections from observant Christians & Jews alike, however, Halloween can be problematic for public libraries to celebrate. If your library has eliminated Halloween programming, may I offer El Dia de los Muertos/The Day of the Dead as an alternative?
Until this week, I thought that El Dia de los Muertos was strictly a Roman Catholic holiday, the equivalent to All Saints’ Day. Not so, says The New York Times: “The Day of the Dead is not Mexico's answer to Halloween, nor is it a Latin-American interpretation of All Saints' Day. Like Mexican food, itself a complex blend of indigenous and Spanish influences, the Day of the Dead is an inextricable mix of pre-Hispanic spiritualism and post-conquest Roman Catholicism.”
More than anything else, El Dia de los Muertos is a time to honor & celebrate family members & friends who have died, and as such could provide a wonderful opportunity to reach out to what for many public libraries is a substantial (and frequently underserved) immigrant population, but also an opportunity to embark upon a series of programs on the folk traditions of all ethnic groups served by your library.
The Arizona Republic has an amazing and comprehensive online guide to the holiday. Of particular use to public & school librarians is the Teacher’s Packet, which includes a bibliography, coloring sheets, and instructions for making both a calavera (skull) mask and a papel picado lesson plan. Papel picado looks like this.
For the even more ambitious, there are sugar skulls to be made, using sugar skull molds. Teacher instructions are included.
And then, of course, there are those very motivated and crafty people who create things of beauty, wonder, and sublime creepiness, like Amber, and her knitted & felted glowing skulls.