Monday, November 7, 2011

Day of the Dead

Just a quick post that I wanted to write last week but never had the time for:

Nov. 1-2 was Day of the Dead in Mexico (and other countries). Ever since I've had my own room in the fall (last year), this has become one of my favorite holidays to teach about.  I love the idea that dead loved ones come back to visit on these special days!  In my classroom, I set up a real ofrenda (offering/"altar")  to my grandparents to immerse the kids in the holiday.  It's a fantastic conversation starter and really gets them curious, excited, and into the spirit of the holiday.  We go from "What's all that food, can we eat it?" to "Your grandparents are dead? I'm sorry," to connections to their own families in about 30 seconds!

my ofrenda to my grandparents

We watch a few short video clips about the holiday to explain some of the traditions and beliefs a little bit more, but having the ofrenda set up is what really brings the holiday to life.  Since I've been able to set one up, I've noticed a big change in how the kids react to the holiday.  Before I started setting up the ofrendas, they still had trouble understanding how a holiday that's about death could be celebratory instead of creepy or sad. With the ofrenda, it becomes real and they connect with the idea of setting out your loved ones' favorite things because they are coming back to visit for a day!  (Of course, they also love the fact that I bring them real pan de muertos -- "dead bread" to try!)

My 7th graders finish by designing their own ofrendas (for anyone from a pet to a family member to a celebrity!) and they love to take what they've internalized about the holiday and make it their own.  We've had some great conversations about relationships and beliefs, and it's a wonderful time to make connections!

(If you don't know much about Day of the Dead, here is a great video clip! I know it's an ad but does a fantastic job of capturing the feelings of the holiday!)
My favorite is the ending, where he says that people always ask if they really believe the dead return, and he says "Can you prove they don't?"

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