Today, Mexicans and others in parts of Latin America and North America celebrate el Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, a holiday honoring deceased friends and ancestors.
The annual celebratation has origins in the Catholic religion, and has connections with All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2).
I’ve always thought Day of the Dead was an interesting holiday, a less somber homage to passed-on loved ones than some other holidays such as Memorial Day. On the Day of the Dead, families participate in parades and feasts, create altars with offerings of flowers and candy for the departed, and visit their graves.
I’ve recently developed an even greater fascination with the Day of the Dead. Yesterday, I learned that the holiday is also an occasion for celebrating the return of monarch butterflies to Mexico from their summer breeding grounds in the North. Did you know that monarch butterflies migrate more than 3000 miles–to Canada and back–over the course of four successive generations?
The migration of the monarchs is just one of stories chronicled in a new National Geographic Channel special, Great Migrations, which airs this Sunday, November 8.
Learn more about the remarkable migration of the monarchs, and its
connection to the Day of the Dead, with these resources from Journey North, the best educational program about monarch butterflies available.
Also check out National Geographic Education’s classroom companion materials for the Great Migrations special. Be sure to tune in on Sunday!
Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World
Images courtesy Journey North, National Geographic Channel.