Carlos, Gian-Luca’s father, visited us last week to share about his family’s Día de los Muertos traditions.
A multi-day holiday, it began October 31 and pays respect to family and friends who passed away.
Carlos brought an alebrije (a brightly colored Mexican folk art sculpture of a fantasy creature,) a skull, a Catrin (a skeleton dressed in mariachi costume,) and papel picado (tissue paper with intricate Día de los Muertos designs.)
Proud of his Mexican heritage, it is very important to Carlos that his son understand the holiday traditions and why his family keeps them, he said. It shows how much they mean to him that Gian-Luca wants to share them with his friends in his class.
“He really appreciates and adores them,” Carlos said. “It fills my heart with joy that he actually wants to share these experiences with them.”
Gian-Luca lost his mother at three years old. The family makes sure to display her photo and objects she loved in their Día de los Muertos altar. “For him to share this experience and his feelings with other people is one of the best things I’ve ever seen,” Carlos said.
Chris, our Lower School Spanish teacher, incorporated the celebration of the holiday with curriculum in his classes, as well as science, art, and social studies. He read stories with his students like "Remember" and "Yo Recuerdo a Abuelito" to help with lingering questions.
Students in our 8-9s science classes (third grade) studied the migration of monarch butterflies from the United States to the mountains of central Mexico. Local communities there associate the orange-and-black butterflies with the returning souls of the dead.
Students also decorated paper monarch butterflies and added the photos and stories of beloved family ancestors, hanging them in front of our Día de los Muertos altar in the Manhattan Country School lobby.
“We can see where different families have come from,” Chris said. “It displays the diversity of our community.”
Qing, our art teacher, helped students create alebrijes and skulls for the altar. In July, our farm began growing cempazúchitl (marigolds) flowers which were used in our school-wide ofrenda.
“I think we all support each other,” Carlos said, referring to the MCS community. “The fact that MCS celebrates with us, that for me, fills my heart with joy.”