Day of the Dead

Update 2.0 - Educator Resources

Day of the death is a prehispanic tradition originally celebrated by Mesoamerican tribes that recognizes death as a part of life that should be celebrated and honored every year. Tribes in prehispanic times yielded worship to various deities and goddesses, two of which ruled the Mexica underworld, Mictecacíhuatl y Mictlantecuhtli the gods of death. In Nahuatl mythology, Mictecacíhuatl y Mictlantecuhtli ruled the “place of death” known as Mictlan where souls had to overcome a series of obstacles in order to achieve eternal rest. Mictlan (place of death) was divided according to the way of dying, which is now modernly reflected in how Day of The Dead is celebrated. 

Classroom Resources

Day of the Dead Elements

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Tonatiuh Icha, the house of the sun was for the warriors who died on the battlefield. Cincalco, the house of Tonacatecutli the god of fertility, was for those who died as infants or children and since they were young they were considered innocent. This is now celebrated on November 1st as “Dia De Loss Inocentes,” which translates to the day of the innocents.

As migration occurred throughout the continent, the cultures and traditions within in Mesoamerican tribes blended, morphed, and synchronized throughout the years. Now Day of the dead is a complex celebration with rituals and festivities honoring the dead that vary throughout the regions of latin america. The principal days are November 1st and 2nd, November 1st being the Day of the Innocent, honoring children, and November 2nd being the day of all loved ones that passed away. The belief is that the souls travel back during these days to visit family and friends, while visiting they enjoy offerings set out at the altars. Now the prehispanic tradition can be seen throughout Mexican-American culture in modern renditions from altars to month long celebrations honoring the life of loved ones. The altar at Furr was created to honor and celebrate our loved ones, ancestors and historical agents of change. We wanted to create a safe space for meaningful conversations while providing students and staff an opportunity to the diversity of cultures and traditions in the community.