Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos


Day of the Dead exhibit altarThe Peabody Museum's exhibition of a Day of the Dead ofrenda or altar is located in the Encounters With the Americas gallery. The exhibit features pieces from the Alice P. Melvin Collection of Mexican Folk Art and represents the Aztec origins of the holiday and the Catholic symbols incorporated into the tradition, from skeletons to plush Jesus figures.

The altar is contained within a box covered with panels that were decorated by local students and regional and international artists. The altars were designed by the Peabody exhibitions staff and Mexican artists Mizael Sanchez and Monica Martinez. 

Originating with the Aztecs, the Mexican Day of the Dead is a unique blend of Mesoamerican and Christian rituals. The holiday, which is celebrated on November 1, All Saints’ Day, is usually dedicated to children; November 2, All Souls’ Day, is dedicated to adults.

Traditions vary from region to region, but generally families gather at cemeteries to tend and decorate the graves of their departed loved ones and remember them by telling stories, eating their favorite foods, and dancing in their honor. Many families build altars at home, decorated with flowers and food, especially pan de muerto or “bread of the dead.” A festive and social occasion, the holiday welcomes the return of those who have died and recognizes the human cycle of life and death.

The Peabody's permanent altar features items from the Alice P. Melvin collection of Mexican folk art

Curated by Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America and Mexican artist Mizael Sanchez.

Related Events, School Program, Videos, and Resources

Each year, the Peabody celebrates the Day of the Dead with a family event and fiesta and a temporary altar that remains on display for the month of November.
Read the Day of the Dead brochure in English (PDF)
Read the Day of the Dead brochure in Spanish (PDF) 
See the calendar for Day of the Dead-related events
Day of the Dead school program
Day of the Dead Interactive Altar



Day of the Dead Altar Artist Mizael Sanchez

Day of the Dead Altar


Day of the Dead Papel Picado


Day of the Dead and the Origins of Papel Picado

The Story of Xolotl the Supernatural Dog

​Lecture Video: Gifts from Mexico: Revitalizing Life Through the Day of the Dead Celebration