The day after Halloween

October 31, 2002

Jose Paul Corona

Dia de los Muertos. Translated into English, it means "Day of the


It's not the title of the latest teen horror flick being released

just in time for Halloween; it is the holiday celebrated in Mexico on

Nov. 1, the day after Halloween.

The holiday came somewhat as a surprise to Lisa Botts, a Spanish


teacher at the Pegasus School.

"I learned about the Day of the Dead in college," she said.

Not knowing about the holiday until then, Botts figured that most

of her third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students probably didn't know

a thing about it either. She decided to teach them about the beliefs

and traditions surrounding the holiday and about how the Mexican

culture accepts death as a necessary part of life.

"Most of them did not know what it meant," she said. "Eighty

percent were shocked when they found out the meaning behind it."

The holiday is celebrated in parts of Mexico, Central America and

in the United States. It dates back 3,000 years and involves family

members remembering loved ones who have passed away. Families visit

cemeteries and decorate gravesites with marigolds and candles. They

bring some of the favorite objects of the deceased and leave them for

their loved ones to enjoy.

People also wear wooden masks called calacas to honor their dead

relatives, who are said to come back to visit during the holiday.

"There's so much meaning behind it," Botts said.

As her students painted small plaster skulls, the music of slain

Tejano singer Selena played in the background. The children who had

finished painting their skulls eagerly picked them up and showed them

to Botts.

Going into a cemetery to celebrate a life seemed strange to the

students at first, Botts said.

"It was mostly foreign, but they were excited about what it really

meant," she said.

Rami Sarabi, 9, learned about the holiday after watching an

episode of "Lizzie McGuire," a children's show on the Disney Channel.

Jessica Brandt's baby sitter told her about it.

"I thought it was pretty cool," she said.

Day of the Dead and Halloween are two completely different

holidays, Botts said.

"I wanted my students to know that it's not Halloween," she said.

Erin Theodora, 9, understood that clearly.

"Day of the Dead is really happy," she said. "It's not scary."

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