Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos

Day of the dead altar detail

Detail from the Day of the Dead exhibit altar. Photo by Hillel Burger.

Ongoing

The 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. To see these items, click here.

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

To watch a video interview with Mizael Sanchez, click here.

Related Events & Programs

Each year, the Peabody celebrates the Day of the Dead with a family event and fiesta on November 1 and/or 2 and a temporary altar that remains on display for the month of November. Download the Day of the Dead brochure in English or in Spanish (Download Adobe Reader here) and check the calendar for events!

See also our school programs.

 


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