De Los Muertos
Dia De Los Muertos/Day of the Dead; Crafts
This program was inspired by an article I read about Dia
De Los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead (which
happens to be the day after Halloween). I found it
fascinating that the Mexican culture embraced death as a
part of life so much more fully than the American
culture that they celebrate it with festivals. I
decided to share this with the residents in my building
by teaching them how to make sugar skulls (traditional
Mexican candy for the celebration) while teaching them
about the cultural holiday. Plus, you are likely
to get a few people who are just in a Halloween mood
(which is fine since skulls are a Halloween symbol as
Making the sugar skulls: You'll need marzipan (a
yummy cross between icing and candy made mostly with
almonds and sugar). I used the ready-made boxed
variety, but I found it to be WAY too hard and brick
like. I highly recommend buying the ingredients
and making it (do this ahead of time!!!!). You
could easily search for and find a recipe on the net (or
in a cookbook, if you have one). In addition, get
lots of colorful icing in the small tubes that create
thin lines when dispensed. Small, pre-made icing
flowers would be nice as well (flowers are a traditional
sugar skull embellishment). You can find TONS of sugar
skull pictures if you search for info on the holiday.
Teach your residents how to do the basic shape (start
from a ball of marzipan and mold into a skull), show
them printed out examples, and let them create!!!!
Advertisement: My flyers were pretty eye-catching.
I chose festive colors that fit the holiday (go with
pinks and greens), flower borders, and internet pictures
of sugar skulls. People would see the combination
and wonder what the heck skulls were doing on such a
festive flyer then read it. I also took a big
sheet of butcher paper and and did a FAQ poster to hang
in the lobby. It covered all of the basics of the
holiday then gave a shameless plug for my program.
Educational aspects: Learn all you can about the
holiday! There are tons of sites. The FAQ
poster was a great way to show everyone that it is not
morbid ahead of time. At the program, have
internet print-outs of basic information for people to
flip through. Do your homework! Be sure that
you can explain why the holiday CELEBRATES rather than
mocks death with comic and festive skeletons and skulls.
Explain the origin (ancient Mexican culture meets
Spanish Catholicism). Tell them about how the
families go out and tend to their dead relatives'
graves. Some people will ask if it is ancestor
worship (especially if you provide information on the
traditional shrines that families in smaller towns build
in their homes). Explain that it is NOT worship,
but merely a way to say "Hi! We still love
and remember you."
Keep in mind that some people will prejudge these
traditions as morbid and even evil. Be a good
example and treat it all with respect. Explain the
cultural differences. In Mexico, they do not think
of death with the same type of fear as us. They do
not mourn the passing of a loved one in quite the same
way. The loved one has passed on to another form
of existence, and so the only thing that is truly
mourned is our loss (or their SHORT life if they died
before being able to experience life at its fullest).
If you act appropriately, so will the residents.
If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me.
I've become a virtual font of information on this
Name: Elizabeth Pressler
School: University of Central Oklahoma
more information from another RA who did this program,
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