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Students Enjoy a Lively Celebration During Day of the Dead

It was a lively celebration during the Selah School District’s Day of the Dead commemoration as vivid color, cultural song, and festive dance “set the spirit,” as students and families remembered loved ones. 

A Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead, or Diá de los Muertos, reunites the living and dead as families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives.  In Mexican culture death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle where it is not a day of sadness, but a celebration because loved ones awake and celebrate with the living for a brief reunion. 

The holiday is enjoyed each year from October 31, through November 2.  This year, Selah students hosted their spirited event on November 1.

Selah’s Day of the Dead commemoration first became a lively tradition in 2016, when John Campbell, in conjunction with the school’s English Learner Parent Advisory Committee (EL PAC), planned the occasion to bridge cultural understanding by honoring a celebration important to many Selah families.  Today, the observance serves as a way to highlight the school’s Dual Language Program as well as showcase the Hispanic culture, its history, language, and traditions.  Further, the event celebrates learning, where families can participate in the academic success of their children through various student presentations and performances.

In cultivating cultural awareness, all Selah students and families are invited to participate in the District’s annual festivity.  As part of the celebration, each grade level in the dual language program provides a different presentation related to the holiday.  Some classes create an ofrenda, or offering, which is a collection of objects placed on a ritual display with flowers, photos, favorite foods and drinks, of the honored individuals. This is believed to encourage visits of past family members to join the celebration.  Other grade levels and students perform cultural songs, spirited dances, or display artwork and assignments.  Also, because the Day of the Dead is a social holiday, dressing up contributes to the fun and participants display skeleton costumes, have their faces artfully painted or don suits and colorful, fancy dresses.  In addition, other activities hosted during Selah’s celebration, include learning the history of the Diá de los Muertos holiday, and participating in face painting, crafts, and cakewalks.  Also, keeping education as the focus, families have the opportunity to connect with community partners such as Yakima Valley Libraries, as well as learn about the District’s K-5 literacy curriculum for English and Spanish language arts.  In addition, information is available so families can learn about the District’s various educational programs.

“Our goal is to celebrate a very important day in the culture of our families with a Mexican background,” said Stacey Beasley, one of the event coordinators and District EL and Migrant Advocate and Instructional Coach.  “We want our families to take away knowledge about and respect for what the significance of the Day of the Dead is, and how it is important to many in our community.”

Melissa Singletary, an assistant principal at John Campbell Primary said, “We intentionally invite every family so all students and families can gain from this unique event to teach our children about other cultures and languages so they can experience the world more fully.”

Selah students celebrate during the District's Day of the Dead event. Selah students celebrate Day of the Dead. The Day of the Dead celebration. A Selah student displays her ofrenda during the Day of the Dead celebration.