Should Toddlers Celebrate Day of the Dead?
I didn't celebrate Day of the Dead as a kid, and I wasn't always sure I wanted my toddler celebrating it either. Halloween skeletons are one thing, but the dancing calacas and talk of lost souls took it to another level.
Growing up Latino in Southern California, I was always assumed to be of Mexican descent. Although a culture rich in history and tradition, my Cuban heritage is very different from that of Mexican Latinos. So the holiday of Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not one I celebrated growing up. Frankly, the symbolism and imagery was quite shocking for my typical American upbringing. Halloween skeletons are one thing, but the dancing calacas and talk of lost souls took it to another level. And I wasn’t always sure if I wanted my toddler celebrating it, either.
However, last year that all changed when my toddler and I decided to learn more about the rituals and traditions that make up this festive holiday in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. After some research on Mexican Day of the Dead, I learned that joy, humor and remembrance of ancestors are the foundation of this seemingly morbid holiday. Celebrating the people who make up our legacy by paying homage to their lives is an important part of my parenting; in raising multiraical children, I believe in honoring our past to raise kids who are in control of their futures. Especially when it comes to navigating a hyphenated identity, understanding our legacies and place on this earth is essential.
Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a holiday that is celebrated in much of Latin America. Its legacy began in the Aztec times of what is now Mexico, and became the modern day celebration that aligns with the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Its purpose is to honor our ancestors by building altars and offering gifts of sugar skulls, pan de muerto, other favorite foods, and small trinkets, in hopes that their souls come back to visit us.
Our world feels smaller than ever before. Our kids will grow up surrounded by cultures and holidays that we ourselves are not accustomed to. Taking the time to understand the foundation of what makes Day of the Dead so appealing to millions of people will help you decide if this holiday is one you want to expose your young kids to. Learning about the traditions and celebrating new holidays will undoubtedly make them more tolerable global citizens. But also, Day of the Dead might give you the opportunity to pull out old photos and celebrate ancestors of your own legacies, giving your young children the foundation of who they are.
At its essence, that’s what Day of the Dead is all about—remembering the people who have impacted our realities, whether we knew them or not, and giving voice to their experience for all of us to learn from.
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