Día de los Muertos Family Zone

Día de los Muertos at SAAM

In-Person Día de los Muertos Family Day
Saturday, October 29, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. ET

Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum in celebrating Día de los Muertos! Bring the whole family to see exciting live performances from Ballet Folklorico Mi Herencia Mexicana, Mariachi Aguila DC, and Sol y Rumba. Enjoy face painting and our featured Día de los Muertos–themed crafts for all ages. Register Now

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

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, music performances, and more. Download a coloring page featuring artwork from SAAM’s pioneering Latinx art collection and calavera pages. Show us your creativity! Please share a picture of your completed creations by using #SAAMFamilyZone on social media.

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.

Learn more about Día de los Muertos

Two Mexican Folk Dancers

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.

Read more about the history and traditions of Día de los Muertos and learn how Chicano artists and activists blended cultural and visual traditions to create modern-day celebrations in the U.S. 

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Papel Picado

Paper banner

Supplies needed: 

  • Colorful tissue paper 
  • Scissors 
  • String 
  • Tape 


- Cut your tissue paper to a rectangle approximately 10 inches by 12 inches.

- Fold the tissue paper in half horizontally (hot dog) with the fold toward you.

- Fold in half this time vertically (hamburger). If desired, mark the folded corner to remember not to cut it.

- Cut designs along the edges and in the center of your paper.

- Carefully open the paper and gently press flat.

- Tape to your string.

- Make several more and tape them to the string.

- Hang your papel picado on your ofrenda, or somewhere else to celebrate Día de los Muertos.

Luminary Bags

paper lantern

Supplies needed: 

  • Paper bag 
  • Single hole punch 
  • Scissors 
  • Battery-powered candle 


- Leave the paper bag flat. 

- Cut the top few inches off in a zig-zag or curved pattern. 

- Punch holes in the lower part of the bag to create a pattern. 

- Open the bag, turn on the candle, and place it inside the bag. 

- Turn off the lights or use your lantern in the dark and enjoy! 

Embellished Calavera

Embellished skull

Supplies Needed: 

  • Cardboard or paper 
  • Scissors 
  • Markers 
  • Stickers, jewels, or glitter glue 
  • Colorful paper 


- Draw a skull outline on paper or cardboard.

- Draw on the eyes, nose, and mouth.

- Add stickers, jewels, glitter, colored paper shapes, or color with markers to create the rest of the face.

- Add to your ofrenda.

Paper Marigolds

A marigold flower made out of tissue paper.

Supplies Needed:

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


- 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.


A candle with skulls on it

Supplies Needed:

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


- 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


- 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.


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. You can learn more about Chicano art by exploring the exhibition, ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now.


Enjoy Mexican folk dancing performances by Ballet Folklórico Mi Herencia Mexicana and from the Smithsonian Latino Center. 

Enjoy traditional music from the different regions of Mexico by Grupo Bella at the Smithsonian Latino Center's 2018 Hispanic Heritage Month Family Festival at the National Museum of American History.

Learn more about the meaning of a Día de los Muertos Ofrenda with scholar and writer Xanath Caraza. 

Watch a conversation with Ana Ramirez and Alonso Martinez from Pixar Animation Studios. These artists helped create The Academy Award-winning animated film Coco. 

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.