Dia de los Muertos at Whidbey Island Waldorf School
A special day of Remembrance
The altar will also be open to the public on the evening of Friday, November 1st,
from 7pm - 9pm. Please feel free to bring your friends and family.
One of the Autumn festivals celebrated at Whidbey Island Waldorf School is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. In the Mexican culture, Dia de los Muertos celebrations occur between October 28 and November 2, depending on the particular customs of the region. Each day is designated to welcome the arrival of spirits. October 31 to November 1 is reserved for "Los Angelitos", the spirits of young children. November 1 to Nov. 2 is reserved for the spirits of adults.
Egyptian, Celtic, Roman, English, Aztec, and Maya cultures all share traditions commemorating the harvest and death. Dia de los Muertos grew from a blending of Aztec beliefs and rituals with the Christian All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day. The result is a unique mix of the solemn and respectful, the festive and the whimsical. Today, you will find different celebrations amongst the many Spanish-speaking countries. The holiday may range from a visit to the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves to all-night vigils, picnics, music, and neighborly visits at the cemetery. In Mexico, families might build a family altar in their home. Markets fill with traditional flowers, candy skulls and amusing skeleton figures. Larger sculptures of skeletons mimicking human activity are on display in public parks and museums along with altars and plays with political overtones.
Dia de los Muertos has been celebrated at WIWS since 1997. Since its beginning as a table covered with tea lights in the lobby, it has grown and been incorporated into the festival life of the children through the Spanish program. Every year, the children in the grade school anticipate the new crafts they will make to add to the “ofrenda”, or altar. There will be opportunities for each class to visit the altar with photographs and stories of loved ones who have died, and share them with one another. Every year, the connections and memories grow instead of diminishing.
The children are preparing paper flowers, paper banners, sugar skulls and other crafts with Senora Susanna, our Spanish teacher. They will be gathered by the 8th grade on October 30 to create the ofrenda. After a night of ‘trick or treating’, it is truly a balm for the soul to walk into our school lobby and behold the altar with its vivid oranges, pinks and purples, flickering candles and wafting paper banners. It is a place where time stops and the physical world and the spiritual world come together. Everyone with a child in the grade school can support this festival by taking some time to share stories of departed loved ones with your children. This can feel strange at first, but your children will treasure this experience and feel more at ease sharing with classmates at school. At first you may find that your children are more interested in how a person died rather than how they lived; but it is stories of how they lived that really bring a sense of connection. One thing we can certainly learn from the Mexican culture is that it is not necessary to always be serious and sad when talking of departed loved ones. Often the funny stories help us to remember and connect profoundly.