Students in the 6th grade Spanish classes in Millburn Middle School continued the annual tradition of researching, studying and preparing presentations and displays about the meaning of the Day of the Dead in México, celebrated on November 1 and 2. 

Teachers Ms. María Deraville, Mrs. Mae Ward and Mrs. Angela Plumacker coordinated the activity. 

Ms. Deraville explained, “Students researched in the  Library Media Center and read and participated in meaningful conversations to compare and contrast the perspectives of the Mexican culture to their own traditions and culture in the USA.”

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The students learned that for Mexicans death is not the end of life, but the continuation of it. The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life itself. For Mexicans it is a happy event, where the souls of the dead visit their families every year on November 1st and 2nd. The first day of the dead is dedicated for the deceased children and the second for the dead adults. 

At home and at the cemeteries the families create and build “altars” for the loved ones who passed away to honor them and show them that they are remembered in a happy way. These altars must contain pictures of the deceased, the food and things that they used to enjoy in life.  In the meantime while decorating and creating the altars the members of the family pray, sing, and eat together showing to the souls their respect and love.

There are 4 main natural elements that must be present on each altar: Fire, Water, Wind and Earth. The fire is represented by candles to light the way of the souls when coming back home. The water is represented by a cup or container with water to quench the thirst of the souls after their long journey when getting back to their homes and families. The wind, is represented by colorful “papel picado” that moves indicating the arrival of the souls. Finally, the earth is represented by the crops, food,“pan de muerto” and flowers placed from the entrance of the house to the altar to guide the souls to the altar and with the aroma attract them to the altar built in their honor. 

The Aztec flower of the Dead, the Zempazuchitl  is originally from México and at this time of the year decorates the entrance of the homes across the US where it is known as the marigold. 

Monarch butterflies are another mystical element of the celebration of  “El Día de los Muertos” as they represent the souls of the dead returning during this time of the year to México.