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Dia De Los Muertos

Dia De Los Muertos/Day of the Dead; Crafts

Description:

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 well.

Instructions/Things Needed:

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."

Other Considerations:

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 holiday.  :)

Name:    Elizabeth Pressler
School:  University of Central Oklahoma
email:   p.liz@mailcity.com

For more information from another RA who did this program, click here


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