Halloween & Day of the Dead

In America, most people are familiar with Halloween, but only in recent years has the Day of the Dead tradition increased in recognition and popularity.  We thought it would be fun to explore the history behind these holidays, and share a craft/treat that can be used for both!


Halloween (or All Hallow’s Eve) is celebrated on October 31 every year in many western Christian countries on the eve of the Catholic All Saints’ Day, which is a time to remember the dead, including saints, martyrs, and other faithful deceased people.

Many academics insist that All Hallow’s Eve began in the eighth century, when Pope Gregory III established All Saints’ Day.  However, it is widely believed that it stems from the ancient pagan Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to scare away any ghosts who might be wandering nearby.

Over time, the holiday became a community-based event, centered more on delighting children (and diligent parents who “check” the safety of their children’s candy) than on scaring away ghosts and goblins.

Want to add a new tradition to your family’s Halloween festivities?  If you’re in the Twin Cities, check out Barebones Halloween Outdoor Extravaganza here.


Barebones Halloween Outdoor Extravaganza, photo courtesy Barebonespuppets.org

The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, begins the evening of November 1 and ends the next day.  It is primarily celebrated in central and southern Mexico, but it’s gaining popularity in the United States in particular, with an increase in the Hispanic population.

Image taken by Randal Sheppard

Image taken by Randal Sheppard

Although the Day of the Dead is now tied in with the Catholic celebration of All Saints’ Day and the similarly spooky feeling of Halloween, it actually didn’t begin that way at all.  Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, Day of the Dead was very similar to Memorial Day in the United States.  It was celebrated in the summer as a time to remember deceased family members and help them on their spiritual journey by visiting and maintaining grave sites and laying out feasts for both the living and dead to enjoy.

It is believed that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all the deceased children can come to earth and spend 24 hours with their families.  The next night , the adult spirits can come join the party!  On November 2, the celebration moves to the cemeteries, where family, friends and neighbors clean grave sites, sing, listen to music, and reminisce about their loved ones.  These traditions keep village members close.

Mary Triana, 16, wears an intricate Day Of The Dead face at the first annual "Viva la Vida" festival at the Santa Ana train station. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: - Day.of.the.dead.train.1102- shot 110115 - ANA VENEGAS, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER The first annual "Viva la Vida" festival was a celebration of Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos) at the Santa Ana Train Station. The event featured individual alters to ancestors, food and entertainment.

Day of the Dead is by far the most important holiday for the region, with many of the rural families spending two months’ salary to honor their dead.  They believe that by honoring their ancestors, the living will enjoy the protection and wisdom of the dead.

Whether you celebrate Halloween or Day of the Dead, you’ll certainly enjoy this creepily cute crafty treat.  Don’t forget to enlist help from your own little ghouls and boys!


You and kids will love decorating marshmallows!  I didn’t know until recently that you could easily buy edible markers.  Most craft stores carry them, as well as Walmart.

You’ll need:

  • One bag of marshmallows (for smaller hands, look for the jumbo marshmallows)
  • Edible decorating markers (get the extra fine tips)
  • Cute paper straws (I picked mine up at Target)
  • Yummy apple cider
  • If you have sprinkles or edible beads use those too (go crazy)

First, take your straw and pierce it through your marshmallow.  Marshmallows are coated with corn starch that can get stuck to the marker tip, so make sure your marshmallow is wiped off to get the most out of your markers.


I wanted to use bright vibrant tones to reflect gorgeous Latin colors.  Remember, if you want more detail, you’ll need extra fine tip markers.   Then you can design what you want!  My boys made pumpkins and ate them right away, before I could grab the camera.  Stinkers!  My boys also loved how the ink made their entire inside of their mouths orange.  Enjoy!



We’d love to see how you decorate your marshmallows!

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  • Louise
    October 28, 2016 at 8:00 am

    Another cute family project!

  • Martha
    October 28, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    We are planing going to the Halloween extravaganza tonigth, very excited to check it out, great idea to try

  • Lillian Soza
    October 28, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I made Dia de los Muertes bread one year. It’s fun to explore different culture’s traditions. Those little marshmellows are so cute!

    • Laura and Melessa
      October 28, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Oooh…I’d love to try your bread recipe!

    • Bart
      October 28, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      A friend at church made some day of the dead bread to sell. We bought some and subsequently ate it this morning. I couldn’t wait for All Saint’s Day. Yum!

      • Laura and Melessa
        October 29, 2016 at 1:16 am

        Ha! Life’s too short to wait for something that yummy!

  • Terry McDaniel
    October 28, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    I like this story you did. The Day of The Dead is really becoming popular now. I hope you can see the BareBones show. There are 4 nights left. Tonight though Halloween.

    • Laura and Melessa
      October 28, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks, Terry! We’re hoping we can. Break a leg! It’ll be amazing!

  • Natalie Douglass
    October 29, 2016 at 1:38 am

    I was going to ask where I could buy the sugar skull marshmallows… you need to market these!

    • Laura and Melessa
      October 29, 2016 at 2:18 am

      Ha! One business idea at a time! 🙂

  • Elane Teasdale
    October 29, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for the info. Had fun sharing it with the boys.

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