In keeping with the school’s core strength of exploring cultural heritage and traditions around the world, The New Century School students learned all about Dia de los Muertos this month. Known as the Day of the Dead in English, this Latin American holiday honors deceased loved ones each November 1st with lively festivals and celebrations. Rather than being morbid, this celebration is full of happiness and joy because those who have passed on would be insulted by mourning or sadness.
Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and maturity, to become a contributing member of the community. On this day, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.
The most familiar symbols of Dia de los Muertos are the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which are almost always portrayed as enjoying life, often in fancy dress and engaged in entertaining activities. These can be seen everywhere, but especially gracing the altars or shrines that many make on which to place offerings of, for example, food, candles, incense, marigolds (the traditional flower used to honor the dead), and photos and mementos of departed souls.
For this year’s Dia de los Muertos, TNCS students joined forces with Maja, a Fell’s Point boutique featuring “an international collection of clothing, jewelry, artifacts, home decor, crafts and music” to craft a special Day of the Dead display. The ladies who own and run Maja visited TNCS’s K/1st classrooms to collaborate on a sugar skull–making workshop, and the grinning, glittering, feathered, festive results can be seen in front of Maja’s altar, located on the corner of Aliceanna and Ann Streets and visible from the store windows. Maja’s unique celebration will culminate with an in-store party with “sweets, treats, laughter, music, and stories” from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Sunday, November 1st. A Frida Kahlo lookalike contest is also on the itinerary—not to be missed!
After making their sugar skulls, TNCS students watched The Book of Life (in Spanish, ¡por supuesto!), which takes place during a Day of the Dead celebration and emphasizes the importance of writing a good story for your life—fulfilling your potential, in other words. Once the sugar skulls were dry, they were taken to Maja, where you can drop by and see them . . . and maybe even leave a memento on the altar for a departed loved one.