Lesson 1: Day of the Dead: A Mexican Celebration

Many Native American groups in pre-Conquest Mexico celebrated one day each year when their deceased ancestors would return to visit them-El Dia de los Muertos. This ancient tradition has become the state of the Oaxaca’s most important celebration. Parades, home altars, and gaily-decorated graves welcome back the dead. The custom has spread throughout Mexico and even to Los Angeles and Tucson.

Learning Objective

Students will understand Day of the Dead customs, beliefs, and traditions and how they vary by region.

Social Studies Standards

Culture A, B, C, E

Discussion Prompts

  • Death is to be celebrated and not feared? Do you agree or disagree? Explain your reasoning.
  • If you were to create an altar for a loved one, what would you include to represent this individual?
  • Share visual examples of what stood out to you in this video that made it a splendid celebration.
  • Compare 2-3 beliefs discussed in the video with beliefs that you, your family, and/or culture hold as important.

Lesson Activities

  • Research Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico and the United States. What are the similarities and differences? Create a corresponding timeline.
  • Create an altar or artifact to honor a relative or past descendent that incorporates art, color, collage and words.
  • Research a Day of the Dead parade or festival in current times and in historical times, comparing the customs and significance. Share your findings in a Venn diagram or T- chart.
  • Write a report about Day of the Dead customs and traditions in the geographical areas discussed in this video in addition to the area where you live.


  • altar
  • ancestors
  • Aztec
  • custom
  • deceased
  • descendent
  • forged
  • sacred
  • significance
  • soul