At the beginning of November, City Garden School celebrated one of the most beautiful Mexican traditions that honors the life of our loved ones who have passed before us: Día de los Muertos.

From kindergarten through sixth grade, students learned about this tradition in their Spanish classes. As a school, we built an “ofrenda.” Additionally, every class contributed their specific ofrenda.

Kindergarten, first, and second grade made beeswax candles. Later on, we lit one of the candles to gather around the ofrenda and say a few words about our loved ones or about our feelings. Third grade made the famous (and fun-to-make!) “papel picado,” using their creativity to cut different shapes. Fourth grade learned to make gorgeous paper flowers that resemble the Náhuatl-named “flor de cempasúchil” (marygold). Fifth and sixth grade drew and colored their own “Catrinas” or “calaveritas,” which resembled Mexico’s very own sugar skulls. We also added the elements of “agua” (water) and “sal” (salt), which represent life and purification.

In addition, each class heard a story about a man who recalls celebrating Día de los Muertos as a young boy in his town of Oaxaca in Mexico. He mentions how he vividly remembers placing each one of the elements on the ofrenda as a boy, and the meaning behind the holiday. He fondly remembers his “abuelita,” or grandmother, as he places her picture on his ofrenda, now as a dad with his own children.

It’s a bittersweet, heartfelt holiday that enriches our lives and nourishes our souls. It deals with life’s toughest questions, but it reminds us to be grateful for the present, as well as to honor our ancestors. Each student had the chance to bring a photo or drawing of a loved one (or a pet!) that they miss dearly.

The ofrenda was up for the week of November 1-4th, and parents were able to come and see our ofrenda, feeling the peace that it gives.

This cultural celebration helped us connect to our loved ones who have passed and to our beautiful Earth, as well as to show us the way that the ancient people of Mexico saw (and still see) the themes of life and death.