Día de los Muertos Family Zone

A photograph of mother and child working on crafts at a table.
Día de los Muertos photograph image credit: Bruce Guthrie

Celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) online with crafting activities, traditional Mexican folk dancing, and coloring pages.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time to remember and honor those who have departed. It is a holiday celebrated on November 1 and 2 throughout Mexico, much of Latin America, and Mexican American communities in the United States. Day of the Dead is deeply rooted in Aztec and other Mesoamerican traditions that pre-dates the arrival of the Spanish in Latin America. On the holiday, it is said that spirits of the dead return home for the night to visit their loved ones. Families create ofrendas, or altars, covered with pictures of their departed family members, lit candles, sweets, decorations, and personal offerings like favorite foods and drinks to nourish the spirits in their journey. Filled with food, music, and dancing, Day of the Dead is a lively celebration in honor of those who have passed before us.

Join in the celebration! Craft your own decorations including paper calaveras (decorative skulls), lanterns, and marigolds with step-by-step instructions. Enjoy videos of traditional Mexican folk dancing performances. Download a coloring page featuring artwork from SAAM’s pioneering Latinx art collection and calavera pages thanks to our friends at the National Portrait Gallery. SAAM’s Latinx art collection represents the museum’s profound commitment to building a great national collection reflecting the diversity of Latino communities and their rich contributions to our country.

Crafting

Paper Marigolds

A marigold flower made of tissue paper

Supplies Needed:

  • Scissors
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 4 sheets of tissue paper

Instructions:

- First, stack 4 sheets of tissue paper
- Pleat the paper in an accordion fold (where you fold the edge panel of the paper over back and forth until it looks like an accordion instrument)
- Cut a half-circle shape on each end
- Wrap a pipe cleaner around the middle of the paper to hold it in place. This will also act as the stem
- Fan out the paper
- Gently separate the first layer of paper from the rest, and move it up to form the top layer of petals
- Gently separate the rest of the paper layers
- Fluff out your flower

Lanterns

A candle with skulls on it

Supplies Needed:

  • Glass jar
  • Paint/Crayons/Markers
  • Small battery-powered light

Instructions:

- Draw outlines for design on jar
- Paint or color in design
- Place battery powered light inside to turn your jar into a lantern

Calaveras (decorative skulls) Wreath

A wreath made of colorful skulls

Supplies Needed:

  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paint/Crayon/Markers

Instructions:

- Draw skull and flower outlines onto your paper
- Draw colorful designs in the outlines
- Cut out skull and flower outlines
- Glue the skulls and flowers in a circle pattern to create a wreath

Coloring

Enjoy coloring pages featuring artwork by Chicano artist Emmanuel Martinez, from SAAM’s extensive collection of Latinx art, and calavera pages thanks to our friends at the National Portrait Gallery. Since we can’t admire your creativity in person, please share a picture of your completed creations by using #SAAMFamilyZone on social media. You can learn more about Chicano art in our special exhibition, ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now.

Videos

Enjoy Mexican folk dancing performances by Ballet Folklórico Mi Herencia Mexicana. 

The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrated Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) with a lively performance of traditional Mexican folk dance and music by Ballet Folklórico Mi Herencia Mexicana.

Día de los Muertos is a time to remember and honor those who have departed. It is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, much of Latin America, and Mexican-American communities in the United States on November 1 and 2. Day of the Dead is a holiday is deeply rooted in Aztec and other Mesoamerican traditions that pre-date the arrival of the Spanish in Latin America. On this holiday, it is said that spirits of the dead return home for the night to visit their loved ones. Families create ofrendas, or altars, covered with pictures of their departed family members, candlelight, sweets, decorations, and personal offerings like favorite foods and drinks to nourish the spirits in their journey. Filled with food, music, and dancing, Day of the Dead is a rich celebration of the lives of those who have passed before us.