Students in Melissa Gerend's classroom at Sheridan Elementary School had the opportunity this week to celebrate Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday which takes place Oct. 31-Nov. 2.
The holiday, celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage, focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.
Gerend generated a PowerPoint presentation, and used books, to illustrate the holiday to the students. The class made papel picado and colored pictures of skulls to decorate the classroom. Gerend created an altar for her deceased grandfather to demonstrate what a typical altar would look like in a Mexican home. The altar had candles, marigolds, traditional Mexican foods, candies, a photo of her grandfather, books and a deck of cards (things her grandfather enjoyed).
Some of the children got to sample the foods as well: mole (a special sauce made from chocolate, chilies and many other spices), Mexican rice and pan de muerto (bread of the dead).
"The celebration was a great way to incorporate Hispanic culture into my classroom for both my Anglo and Hispanic students and was a fun educational experience for us all," said Gerend.