Buzz off bats! Celebrate Halloween this year with the kids ‘Coco’ style!

coco movie 2

Had enough of pumpkins and bats? Or spiders and witches just aren’t your thing? Why not try something different this Halloween and get the kids to celebrate the holiday the way the Mexicans do, with a ‘Day of the Dead’ theme instead!

What is the Day of the Dead?

While it may sound a lot more sinister than ‘Happy Halloween’, the Mexican festival Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is another version of the annual holiday which has a much nicer message. Obviously, there is a similar theme of death, however, rather than being all about scary costumes, doing tricks and knocking on doors for lollies; it’s all about showing love and respect for deceased family members.

Traditional mexican Day of the dead altar with sugar skulls and candles

Tell me more

The colourful two-day festival originated several thousands of years ago with the Aztecs and other pre-Hispanic cultures who considered mourning for the dead disrespectful, preferring instead to think of them as still alive in memory and spirit. They believed that during Día de Los Muertos the deceased came back to earth for a short while, hence the cause for celebration. Today’s festival sees revellers wear fun costumes and make-up, dance and sing songs, hold parades and parties with colourful decorations, write poems and honour lost loved ones with prayers, candles, pictures and offerings such as their favourite foods and flowers. 

Read more about celebrating Halloween:

When to celebrate

The core festivities of Día de Los Muertos happen over November 1 and 2, however, given it’s around the same time as the other Halloween (31 October), it won’t matter if you celebrate one day earlier when everyone else has their pumpkins out.

day of the dead

What you can do

If you like the sound of Day of the Dead as an alternative to traditional Halloween, here are some fun ideas for activities to do with the kids:

  • Watch Coco! – This cute Disney-Pixar animated film really brings the concept of the Día de Los Muertos to life in a positive and heartwarming way that young kids will love, plus the music is catchy too!
  • Costumes and make-up – La Calavera Caterina is the symbolic character for the festival who represents the idea that humans ‘are all skeletons’ underneath, hence why skulls and skeletons are the key themes. You could dress like her, other skeletons or characters from the movie Coco, or simply don some fun face paint with the skeleton-like eyes and cheeks. 
  • Papel Picado – Mexicans make colourful paper decorations (usually with perforated designs) during the festival to symbolise wind and the fragility of life, so you could create some cute buntings and other similar creations to place around the house (see a tutorial video here).
  • Remember lost ones – Traditionally pictures of the deceased along with offerings are placed on altars in the home to help welcome them back to earth. Ideas in a similar vein could be to bring out old photo albums of loved ones that have passed away, place their pictures up or play their favourite songs, light candles and talk about them and their lives in an upbeat way.
  • Marigolds – Petals from these flowers are usually scattered from graves to the altar, to help lead the dead home for the festival, but a modern spin on this could be to place the flowers around the house for a cheerful, bright outlook.
  • Make favourite foods – Instead of placing offerings on an altar, you could make favourite meals, drinks and snacks to eat and share (or go for a fun Mexican theme!). Sugar skulls are also a traditional sweet treat of the festival so you could enjoy making and eating these together too (see a recipe here).

How do you celebrate Halloween with kids? Share your ideas with us on our Facebook page

Decorated colorful skulls

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