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Connect with your living relatives as you celebrate your deceased ancestors with a Dia de los Muertos party.

While most Disney movies cast a magic spell over me, the movie Coco pricked my heart at a whole different level. The story was so beautiful, and I was blown away by the sweetness of the Dia de los Muertos celebration. I thought it was really neat that people formally celebrate their deceased loved ones instead of just mourning them.

(You can learn more about Dia de los Muertos from The Day of the Dead, a website dedicated to teaching others about the special celebration that takes place in November.)

Now, I was born in America, and I don’t have any Mexican roots that I know of. But family is extremely important in my religion, and the movie inspired me so much that my family decided to begin celebrating the Day of the Dead in addition to our traditional Halloween (because they are not the same thing at all!)

I do not claim to know everything about the celebration, nor do I practice every aspect of it, but I deeply respect it and want to celebrate my ancestors through some of the traditions.

Click here to see a peek of our family’s small celebration last year. This year, I can’t wait to go all-out and make traditional recipes and do more activities.

Ideas For a Dia de los Muertos Celebration

In this post, I’ve included many traditional ways to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, along with other fun and meaningful ways to honor your deceased loved ones.

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Decorations

I made a printable highlighting a few (of many!) of the common symbols of Dia de los Muertos that may aid in your decorating, available here.

  • Make an Ofrenda-The ofrenda, or altar, is one of the main components of a Dia de los Muertos celebration. Ofrendas hold special items meant to attract a loved one’s spirit back to visit the living relatives. You can create ofrendas in your home, at the gravesite of your ancestors, or both. On the ofrenda, place pictures, candles, flowers (marigolds are traditionally used), and special foods or artifacts that represent the deceased love ones.
Before her passing, my grandma used to make these little rag dolls. This is one I received from her as a child.
  • Make your own Papel Picado (I really enjoyed this tutorial) to hang up in your celebration space, or find a ready-made one. I love how bright and intricate the designs are!
  • Hang a cute sugar skull banner, like this one from our shop!
  • I chose to display a genealogy wheel. I think it’s so cool to see so many names of my ancestors in one place.
  • Find some festive sugar skull fabric to dress up your table or ofrenda as well! I also think this table runner is adorable.
  • Add some cute calaveras to the spread. These skulls are ready-made from sugar!
  • Grab a cool backdrop for your festivities
  • Decorate your lawn with these fun signs!

Food and Drink

dia de los muertos cookies are so fun to make!

I’ve listed some traditional recipes used during Dia de los Muertos, but most importantly, think about foods and drinks that your deceased ancestors enjoyed during their lives. Put some of these items on the ofrenda and also serve some to your party guests.

Some traditional Day of the Dead foods include:

Other Foods:

Traditional Non-Alcoholic Drinks For the Whole Family

Serve these in sugar skull mugs!

Other Drink Ideas:

Last year, I served one of my favorite Mexican sodas, Sidral Mundet. You can find these in the Hispanic Foods aisle in many grocery stores.

Activities

  • Learn Together– If you are not of Mexican heritage, like me, you can spend time as a family learning more about the Day of the Dead. I feel that learning more about other cultures can bring a sense of unity, appreciation, and respect.
  • Attend a local Dia de los Muertos festival or parade
  • Visit the Gravesite of your loved ones, or a place that was special to them.
  • Skull Face Paint– Check out Madison’s easy calavera face painting tutorial, where she teaches how to make a basic skull face that you can easily customize! Isn’t she cute as Mama Imelda from Coco? Her husband Alex rocked his Hector costume, too!
  • If painting is not your thing, try these pretty Day of the Dead jewel stickers or cool temporary face stickers.
  • Sugar Skull Cookies– Create cute cookies using bright colors and fun designs! You may be able to find kits at your local grocery store or on Amazon, or just shape and bake your own!
  • Play games that remind each other of the loved ones you are honoring– My husband’s grandmother used to whip us all at the game Upwords, so that is a game we like to have out.
  • Swap Stories– Take turns sharing stories and memories of your deceased loved ones. Check out our cute memory cards to write on!
  • Watch Movies or shows that feature Day of the Dead celebrationsCoco, The Book of Life, and Elena of Avalor (S1 E 9: A Day to Remember) are popular ones.

Fill out your family tree- See if you can fill in all the spaces! Ask your family members questions about the names on your chart. Click here to grab a family tree printable from our shop!

Interview a relative that is celebrating Dia de los Muertos with you. Click here for our 20-question printable.

Day of the Dead Bingo (coming soon!)

Sugar Skull Matching Game

Create sugar skulls designs and masks- I printed off some basic skulls and let my kids design their own calaveras. They loved it!

Day of the Dead Pinata– Here is a cute one from Amazon.

Other Elements

During our celebration, I played music from the Coco soundtrack, but you can also play traditional Mexican music.

I am so grateful for the chance to learn from other cultures and to feel more connected to my family (both deceased and living) through special traditions.

If you’re looking for more activities to help you connect with your family, try our 31 Days of Family Challenge!

Feliz día de los Muertos!

31 Days of Family: A Family History Challenge
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