John Stanford International Elementary

John Stanford International
Curriculum Enhancement

El Dia de los Muertos and Obon

El Dia de los Muertos and Obon Festival!

Each fall, some of the classrooms at John Stanford International School celebrate El Dia de Los Muertos and the Obon Festival.

El Dia de los Muertos

On November 1st and 2nd, some parts of Mexico celebrate El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead”. This festival grew out of the ancient Aztec custom of celebrating death and two religious holidays. One is All Saints Day, a celebration for the souls of children who have died. The other is All Souls Day, the time when adult souls return to visit their families. On these days, religious ceremonies are held to hone the dead. Many families set up pictures and photographs of honored relatives beside or on an altar in their homes.

The mood of El Dia de Los Muertos is a cheerful one. The color yellow is widely used n flower and candle decoration. Toys, masks and candies in the shape of skeletons and skulls are sold. Bakeries sell Pan de Muerto, a special bread baked to represent a skeleton. It has a nob for the head and twists for the bones. On these festival days, families and friends gather at cemeteries to clean and decorate the many graves. Sometimes, families will decide to hold a feast among all the beautiful flowers and decorations. Often, special meals will be prepared in honor of visiting spirits.


Obon is an annual Japanese event for commemorating one’s ancestors. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors’ spirits, Obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food and offerings are made at house altars and temples. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region.