The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is helping Catholic students and their families celebrate Día de los Muertos amid the pandemic this year, with online videos and craft kids for Catholic students.
Instead of the usual in-person cultural events, the archdiocese’s Office of Religious Education and Catholic Cemeteries & Mortuaries will offer pandemic-friendly initiatives to help school children and their families learn about Día de los Muertos.
Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a primarily Mexican way of celebrating the feasts of All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
The celebration is an expression of Latin American culture and Catholic beliefs, which makes use of some familiar symbols to teach and celebrate the Church’s teaching on the communion of the saints and the souls in purgatory.
Annual celebrations typically involve skeletal costumes and face makeup, parades and processions, as well as traditional foods such as “pan de muerte” (bread of the dead) and sugar skulls (calaveras).
Over the past 6 years, the archdiocese has hosted special catechetical programs for local Catholic school students on this day. Normally, about 15 local Catholic schools send over 350 third-grade students to Calvary Cemetery & Mortuary in East Los Angeles to learn more about the celebration.
Plans for this year are different, due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Oct. 26, Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries provided 12 local Catholic schools with special Día de los Muertos crafts kits, containing materials for students to create art projects teaching them about the day.
Day of the Dead celebrations traditionally include sugar skulls, picture frames, and paper flowers to decorate shrines for deceased relatives.
This year, the archdiocese will also offer a series of education videos online, so students can learn about the meaning and history of Día de los Muertos with their families. The video will cover topics including the final resurrection, treatment of the dead, and the faith and cultural traditions associated with the Day of the Dead.
“The videos will guide students on creating a sacred space, or altar, in their home to pray and remember family and friends who have passed,” the archdiocese said in an Oct. 26 statement.
Among the schools participating this year will be Our Lady of Guadalupe in East LA, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rose Hill, Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Montebello, and Sacred Heart in Lincoln Heights.
Last year, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alex Aclan told CNA that the day is a powerful reminder about the communion of saints and a way to help parishioners remember their dead loved ones.
“For Mexicans to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, my experience is the remembering of the dead is really the most important part of it. Making sure that the dead are remembered, that their deceased are remembered, and that we really are one with them even though they're on the other side and we're still here,” the bishop said.
“And that's basically our teaching on the communion of saints. The different parts of the Church: the ones in Heaven, the ones that are still on their way trying to find their way to the gates of Heaven, and us here on Earth, and we are still together as one. We are still one Church.”