Day of the Dead

November 1 and 2 is Day of the Dead – Dia de los Muertos – a holiday celebrated in Mexico, Central America, and Hispanic communities around the United States.

Families remember and honor deceased relatives with special foods, flowers (marigolds), candles, photos, sugar skulls, skeletons arranged on altars (ofrendas) in homes.

Homes are decorated with happy skeletons calacas that represent favorite activities of the dead. Skeletons may be assembled into small dioramas (nichos). Larger version of skeletons are created for altars or carried in processions.


Holiday foods

Special foods are part of the holiday, including the this pan de muertos (bread of the dead), a sweet bread with lots of pink or white sugar on top. It’s also delicious with Mexican hot chocolate.


Children’s books

Day of the Dead children’s books to read about the holiday:

  • Dia del Los Muertos by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, Carles Ballesteros
  • On Day of the Dead, it’s time go to the cemetery to celebrate lives of departed family and friends. Bring candles and favorite foods such as pan de muerto and chocolate atole drink, spread a path of marigold petals, join a parade of skeletons, dancers and musicians come out to play. In English and Spanish. (Picture book)
  • As candle flames glisten, our smiles are bright
    Our ancestros know we are with them tonight.
  • The Day of the Dead – El Dia de los Muertos by Bob Barner
  • Charming introduction to Day of the Dead, in Spanish and English. Two children prepare for the holiday, and then under the moon glowing bright, they dance and sing. Beautiful paper collage illustrations. (Picture book)
  • Day of the Dead Activity Book by Karl Jones, Steve Simpson
  • Learn about Day of the Dead traditions, fold together an ofrenda (altar), make papel picado and marigold decorations, decorate Day of the Dead masks, recipes for sugar skulls and graveyard cakes, stickers with dancing skeletons, sugar skulls flowers, decorations. (Activity book)
  • Calavera Abecedario by Jeanette Winter
  • Day of the Dead from A to Z with colorful calaveras – an angel sits on a pink cloud, a bruja (witch) stirs the pot, a candelera (candlemaker) sells her candles, it’s a fiesta with all the dancing calaveras. Bright illustrations in a folk-art style. (Picture book)
  • Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter
  • A small town in Mexico prepares for El Dia de los Muertos. Mama cooks empanadas and pan de muertos, uncles and aunts gather fruits and grind chilies, the whole family makes tamales. When night comes, everyone carries food and marigolds to the cemetery, and they sing, dance and eat. (Picture book)
  • Dia de los Muertos by Hannah Eliot, Jorge Gutierrez
  • It’s time for Dia de los Muertos, the holiday that honors departed loved ones, celebrated with bright colored decorations (papel de picado), sugar skulls, paper mache skeletons, music, special foods. (Board book)