Looking to add more festivities to your Fall? This easy Día de Los Muertos pumpkin stencil craft is fun for both adults and kids.
As you may or may not know, September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month in the US. I thought this would be the perfect time to share a Día de Los Muertos craft! It’s actually a fusion craft because I use pumpkins, which is a tradition of American Fall holidays.
What is Día de Los Muertos you might ask?
It is a Mexican holiday that means Day of the Dead in English. The holiday isn’t meant to be spooky, scary or gory. It is actually the celebration of loved ones who have passed away. Originally celebrated sometime in August by Aztecs, the arrival of Spaniards and Catholic indoctrination merged the dates with All Saints Day and All Souls Days. Hence it is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.
How the holiday evolved.
I had never heard of this holiday until Spanish class in either middle school or high school (I can’t remember!). We had an assignment to create an ofrenda, or altar dedicated to a passed loved one. I remember asking my grandmother, who is first generation Mexican American, about the holiday. She helped raise me and she had never mentioned this holiday. She simply said it wasn’t something she grew up with.
I thought I knew a lot about my Mexican heritage and the associated holidays. There was of course Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence, Las Posadas, feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This lead me to do more research. The holiday seems to have been regionally celebrated in some states and not made a national holiday in Mexico until the 1960s. My grandmother’s family moved to the US before the 1920s and they moved from an area that didn’t historically celebrate it. So that explains why she wouldn’t have grown up with it and part of why I learned about it later.
The holiday in pop culture.
A funny fact I came across recently is that the first ever Día de Los Muertos parade was held in the capitol Mexico City in 2016, after the James Bond film Spectre opened with a fictional, massive Day of the Dead parade and festival in the main square. The tourist board used the film props and costumes left by the studio to throw the first official parade! Art imitating life, life imitating art. And of course the animated movie Coco, is all about Día de Los Muertos, bringing the holiday further into the mainstream.
But I digress. Back to the craft!
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Initially I set out to find plastic skulls to paint like the sugar skulls that would normally be part of a Day of the Dead celebration, but I wasn’t able to locate any. And that is how the pumpkins came in.
Paint pumpkins black.
You may be able to find black plastic pumpkins and skip this step altogether. I’ve also seen some grocery stores carry real white pumpkins painted with Day of the Dead motifs. You can get creative with the materials too.
Use paint pens and stencil.
I tried to find a stencil specific for Día de Los Muertos crafts, but the options on Amazon would take too long to arrive. At the local Michael’s I found these paper decorations that I could use as both stencil and decoration. They are a bit fragile, but do the job.
Day of the Dead meal.
Traditionally, a family would prepare the favorite meal of a deceased family member and bring it to the cemetery for a celebratory picnic. They would pray and mourn for the family member/s and then enjoy their feast. Of course you can share the meal at home! Bring out photos and tell stories of loved ones, decorate your table with marigolds or similar flowers, light candles and of course sprinkle in the pumpkins!
Pin this Easy Día de Los Muertos Pumpkin Stencil Craft!
All the things you need to have your own Día de Los Muertos Meal.
More fun Fall crafts!
For another painted pumpkin pumpkin, check out this beautiful craft!
And here is a tutorial for a lovely pumpkin topiary centeriece you will adore!
One more for the road- a paper leaf wreath.