Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead (or Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday mainly celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, although celebrations begin on October 31st. 

Families come together to celebrate and remember ancestors and loved ones who have passed away, and although it is a time for people to reflect and remember, it's also an explosion of colour and celebration. There are parades and parties, and people sing and dance.

November 1st is a national holiday and all banks are closed. People build private altars with the favourite food and drinks of deceased loved ones to try and encourage the souls to visit. 

People carrying candles as part of the Day of the Dead festivities
People carrying candles as part of the Day of the Dead festivities

History of Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead can be traced back thousands of years to the indigenous cultures in Mexico, who had rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors. The festival originally occurred in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar and lasted for the entire month. People believed the dead were still members of the community, who were kept alive in memory and spirit and that they temporarily returned to Earth during the festival.

Halloween and Day of the Dead are celebrated around the same time of year and share some roots and similarities, but they are totally different holidays.

Sugar Skulls

One of the most iconic images during the Day of the Dead festivities is the sugar skull or Calavera. Traditionally Calaveras are made of sugar and decorated with icing.

In recent years sugar-skull makeup and masks have become popular costumes for Halloween outside of Mexico, and some Mexicans feel that if people are going to dress up in a Día de los Muertos costume or makeup they should learn a little about the meaning of the Day of the Dead first.

Some Interesting Facts...

  • Marigolds are widely used to decorate altars during the festival. It is believed that these flowers use their bright colour and scent to guide the spirits to their respective altars during Día de los Muertos, and they also represent the fragility of life.
  • The Day of the Dead was recognised by UNESCO as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2008, because of its importance to Mexican culture and the unique aspects of the celebration which have been passed down through many generations.
  • It is believed that monarch butterflies arriving during the festivities are returning ancestors. Every year during the week of Nov. 2, parts of Mexico are swarmed with monarch butterflies that travel 3,000 miles all the way from Canada. The belief that the spirits of the dead could return as butterflies can be traced back to the Aztecs.

Our Day of the Dead Resources

Day of the Dead Colouring Page 1

Day of the Dead Colouring Page 1

This beautifully illustrated Day of the Dead colouring page has enough detail to appeal to children of all ages (and adults too!).

Day of the Dead Poster 1

Day of the Dead Poster 1

This fabulous poster features two of the most recognisable symbols of the Day of the Dead celebrations  -  sugar skull face paint and marigolds. Print using the borderless settings on your printer for the best results.

Day of the Dead Poster 2

Day of the Dead Poster 2

Marigolds and sugar skulls are important symbols during the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico, and this colourful display poster has both!

Day of the Dead Poster 3

Day of the Dead Poster 3

These children are ready to celebrate The Day of the Dead with their faces painted like fancy sugar skulls! Print this lovely poster to brighten up any display...

Day of the Dead Story Paper

Day of the Dead Story Paper

This fun Day of the Dead story paper has lots of space to write down what you've learned about this colourful festival, or use the picture as inspiration for a creative story. There's also a super detailed picture for you to enjoy colouring in.

Dia de los Muertos Colouring Page

Dia de los Muertos Colouring Page

Dia de los Muertos is the Spanish name for the colourful Mexican festival which honours the dead with lively festivities (known as Day of the Dead in English).

Dia de los Muertos Story Paper

Dia de los Muertos Story Paper

Dia de los Muertos (which translates to 'Day of the Dead' in English) is a vibrant and exciting festival celebrating and remembering the dead, and it's the perfect setting for an imaginative story! Remember to colour in the fun illustration too...

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