Día de los Muertos: A Cultural Celebration of Life

Dia de Muertos alter photos
  • Belonging

As part of our commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging, Merion Mercy Academy celebrates cultural and ethnic holidays like Dia de los Muertos.

In addition to it many educational benefits, learning a new language at Merion Mercy Academy involves understanding the associated culture, traditions, and history. This in turn fosters global understanding and empathy, promoting open-mindedness and tolerance. It is with these goals in mind that Spanish teacher Trish Nowlan '07 has made an annual event out of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which takes place on November 1 and 2. 

Coinciding with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, the iconography and origins of Día de Muertos have roots in the culture and practices of the Aztecs, an indigenous people of Mexico. These symbols include the calaveras and calacas (skulls and skeletons) that are depicted as lifelike figures to remind us of the connection between life and death and that life is fleeting.

Dia de Muertos skeleton

Nowlan explains, "The celebration is to honor and celebrate departed loved ones, so the tone tends to be more festive and playful, rather than mournful." Families build ofrendas (altars) in their homes, place pictures of loved ones on the altar, leave small gifts of the deceased's favorite foods and drinks, and visit and decorate the graves of the dead.

Dia de Muertos alter

Each year Nowlan builds an eleborate altar in the language arts hallway where she invites members of the school community to remember departed loved ones. "You are encouraged to bring in a picture of a family member or friend that you wish to honor for this beautiful celebration."

Throughout the year, each language studied at Merion Mercy—Spanish, French and Latin—is given its own weeklong celebration in which the music, food and cultural traditions of that language are shared with students, faculty and staff. Community Reset times are also used for reflections and celebration of cultural awareness, including Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, and Black History Month. Expanding our appreciation for the diversity in our school community and in our world reflects Merion Mercy's commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

  • Dia de los muertos
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