In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, this month’s program is about the celebration called Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

What is Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead is not the Mexican version of Halloween! The traditions and tone of both celebrations are different. Halloween is a scary night of terror and mischief. Whereas Day of the Dead festivities happen over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. The point of Day of the Dead is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased friends and family members.

Revelers often wear masks, colorful makeup, and costumes. They hold parades, parties, sing, dance, and make offerings to honor deceased loved ones. The rituals have deep symbolic meanings.

Day of the Dead masks

These two masks in the Lam Museum collection are from Juarez, Mexico.

Because of migration, Day of the Dead celebrations are found in Mexico, Guatemala, the United States, and other parts of the world. It is important to note that Day of the Dead celebrations vary from place to place.

Day of the Dead masks

These masks in the Lam Museum collection are from Guatemala (left) and Texas (right).

The more you understand, the more you will appreciate Day of the Dead. You can learn more by visiting our virtual exhibit, Day of the Dead: Artifact Profiles, or by visiting the Museum to see our annual exhibit Life After Death: The Day of the Dead in Mexico, on display through December 10, 2021.


Day of the Dead started thousands of years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other peoples of Mesoamerica. For these ancient cultures, mourning the dead was believed to be disrespectful because death was a natural part of the life cycle. The memory and spirits of the dead were kept alive through various memorial days, religious rituals, and celebrations.

In ancient times, skulls were used to honor the dead. During celebrations, people wore costumes and used caretas, or masks, to scare the dead away at the end of the festivities.

After the Spanish conquest, these indigenous religious traditions were absorbed into Catholic celebrations.


People in Day of the Dead masks

People wear masks during a Day of the Dead street festival.

Today, Day of the Dead is a combination of these ancient rituals and Christian feasts. Celebrations takes place on November 1, All Saints’ Day, and November 2, All Souls’ Day.

Revelers today paint their faces or wear skull masks to represent a deceased loved one. The idea is to dance in honor of a loved one or keep the spirits close.

Let’s Decorate a Day of the Dead Mask!

You can find lots of examples of Day of the Dead masks on the internet for ideas on how to decorate your mask.  Have fun and be creative!

You will need:
Mask template (Or a mask from home)
Hole punch
Markers or colored pencils
Tape or stapler
Yarn or string
Optional: flowers, stickers, buttons, jewels, ribbons


1. Download mask template.

2. Print mask on cardstock.Cut out mask


3. Using the dark lines as a guide cut out the mask form. Make sure to cut out the eyes.



4. Punch holes in mask for yarn or string.

Color mask5. Use markers or colored pencils to color and decorate your mask.






Tape mask
6. Using glue, tape or stapler form your mask. Fold along the dotted lines for the nose.





7. Tie yarn or string in the holes so you can wear your mask.






Decorate mask
8. Once you’ve created the mask form you can continue to decorate your mask with flowers, ribbons, stickers, anything you want.

NOTE: If you have a plain mask form or old Halloween mask at home, you can use that. If you use an old Halloween mask you will need to use acrylic craft paints to paint and decorate it. After the paint is dry you can embellish your mask anyway you want.

Recent Posts