Latter-day Saint Life

Day of the Dead: Try a family history–focused approach to Halloween season

An Ofrenda Altar Shrine on Day of the Dead in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
No matter your heritage, FamilySearch’s new Day of the Dead activities can bring family focus to your Halloween-time traditions.
YinYang/Getty Images

A few years ago, sugar skulls and marigolds started finding their way into my family’s Halloween celebrations. Our three young kids had just discovered Disney’s film Coco, with its heartwarming Day of the Dead theme, focused on connecting with family and ancestors during the Mexican holiday. So one fall evening close to Halloween, our family gathered at the kitchen table to tell stories of our ancestors while taping to the wall paper cutouts of flowers, sugar skulls, and food to create a makeshift ofrenda (a home altar celebrating deceased ancestors).

We also taped up portraits of ancestors that we’d printed off FamilySearch. Obvious choices were pictures of my great-grandmother, one of the earliest Church converts in her home state of Veracruz, Mexico; and her father, who fought in the storied battle of Cinco de Mayo in Puebla. But we also told stories of the kids’ Scandinavian and British forebears, including one ancestor who entered the Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young.

The Day of the Dead provided the perfect way to celebrate the ancestors on all branches of our family tree and help our kids appreciate their diverse heritage.

Although Halloween itself was originally a day to remember and honor the dead, today’s celebrations tend to focus more on costumes and candy. If you’d like more family focus in your Halloween-time activities, celebrating the Day of the Dead might be the perfect approach—no matter what part of the globe your roots grew from.

► You may also like: What the Church has said about Halloween

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This year, FamilySearch is launching a Day of the Dead celebration with the theme “Everyone Deserves to be Remembered,” according to its new web page. The event aims to “make Day of the Dead more meaningful for people of all backgrounds,” allowing “everyone—whether they have Latin American heritage or not—to honor their ancestors,” according to a Church News article.

The event runs from October 24 to November 1, with a calendar of activities for each day, including gathering stories and photos and preparing traditional foods. FamilySearch’s Day of the Dead site also has beautiful photos and descriptions of how people all over Latin America celebrate their ancestors at this time of year, along with free FamilySearch resources to help you get to know your ancestry better.

With these new resources, you might want to make sugar skulls and ofrendas part of your family’s Halloween-time traditions.

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