Day of the Dead for NYC Kids: Mexican Culture Comes Alive with Día de los Muertos Family Celebrations
October is always a busy time as families try to figure out which Halloween events and activities to hit. But how about mixing some multicultural celebrations into your schedule, too? Day of the Dead—or Día de los Muertos as it's known in Spanish—is observed by many Latino cultures. While it's not a Halloween event, it occurs around the same time and features many of the same trappings (skulls, colorful outfits, parades, etc.) During Day of the Dead, revelers celebrate friends and family members who have passed on by building altars and adorning them with colorful paper flowers, grinning skeletons and candles. It's a really joyful way to honor the deceased without freaking kids out.
Day of the Dead technically takes place on November 1 and 2 to coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. However, NYC celebrations are spread throughout October and early November. Here are seven ways to mark Day of the Dead, most of which are totally FREE.
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Super Sabado: Dia de los Muertos Celebration – East Harlem
Saturday, October 18
My daughter and I have been to El Museo del Barrio's annual celebration many times (that's her in skeleton face paint). The museum constructs a giant Day of the Dead display in its cafe and kids are encouraged to contribute to the altar. Enjoy flower and skull face painting, holiday-themed arts and crafts, storytelling, dancing and a spooky procession from the nearby Dana Discovery Center in Central Park to the museum. The day closes out with a concert by Spanish band Pistolera.
Monster Mash – Crown Heights
Friday, October 24-Saturday, October 25
In advance: $12; at the door: $13
One of our top ten Halloween event picks for families also celebrates Day of the Dead. During the Brooklyn Children's Museum's annual fete, kids can learn about the holiday and create skeleton masks. Best for the preschool set.
Dead or Alive: Halloween at NYSCI – Corona
Saturday, October 25-Sunday, October 26 and Saturday, November 1-Sunday, November 2
Most activities are free with admission: $11 for adults, $8 for children 2-17
Head to the New York Hall of Science to celebrate Halloween and Day of the Dead with offbeat activities like pumpkin chucking, and face time with bioluminescent creatures and live bats. Most activities are included in museum admission, but the bat encounter requires an additional fee. Afterward, explore all of the other attractions Flushing Meadows Corona Park has to offer.
Day of the Dead Festival – Staten Island
Sunday, October 26
Celebrate the holiday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta School's annual fair, which begins with the construction of two altars. Visitors are encouraged to contribute their own mementos, and craft paper skeletons and flowers. Traditional music and dance performances are also on tap.
Halloween Remixed – Flushing
Friday, October 31
Celebrate Día de los Muertos, Halloween and All-Saints' Day at Flushing Town Hall's jam-packed multicultural fest where kids can make masks, All-Saints' Day Medallions, Mexican sugar skulls and listen to ghost stories.
Day of the Dead – Financial District
Saturday, November 1
The always-free National Museum of the American Indian hosts an afternoon celebration where families can make traditional Day of the Dead crafts, contribute to a community altar and watch dance performances.
Day of the Dead – East Village
Saturday, November 1-Sunday, November 2
Mexican culture org Mano a Mano throws NYC's biggest Day of the Dead fest at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery. Revelers can bring mementos of loved ones who have died to adorn the community-built altar. On Saturday, a Procession of the Innocents will travel from Union Square to the church to commemorate victims of injustice. Paper flower workshops are open to all ages, and a poetry reading and Mariachi band close out the celebration on Sunday.
For more seasonal fun, check out our Halloween Guide.
This post was originally published in October 2010.