Second and third graders have been learning about Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead in Spanish class. Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration. A blend of Mesoamerican ritual, European religion and Spanish culture, the holiday is celebrated each year on November 1-2. This holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and helping support their spiritual journey. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. Mexicans view it not as a day of sadness but as a day of celebration because their loved ones awake and celebrate with them. In 2008, the tradition was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using calaveras, Aztec marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves.
Sugar skulls represent a departed soul, it has the name written on the forehead and is placed on the home ofrenda or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit. Sugar skull art reflects the folk art style of big happy smiles, colorful icing and sparkly tin and glittery adornments.
Last week, second and third graders went on a field experience to El Corazon de Pueblo in Oakland to make sugar skulls. Students were very excited to learn how to make the dough for sugar skulls, put them in molds and then decorate them with colorful icing.