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Celebrating El Dia de los Muertos

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Wenona’s Spanish students enjoyed a cultural celebration of Mexico’s Day of the Dead today, complete with mariachi musicians, Mexican dancing and of course, the customary ‘pan de muertos’, the Mexican bread, which is traditional to the day.

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Celebrated from 31 October to 2 November, the origins of this happy, colourful occasion stretch back thousands of years to the Aztecs, who revered death as a natural phase of life and considered the dead to be members of their communities.

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With its skulls, graveyards, painted faces and costumes galore, the Day of the Dead shares some classic Halloween hallmarks. However, the focus of the day is the belief that the dead return to earth. And families get together to welcome the friendly spirits of their loved ones, preparing their favourite food to lure their souls back to the world of the living.

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In the days running up to the festival, families will visit graveyards to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones, covering them with a blanket of bright orange Mexican marigolds. And thanks to Spanish teacher Ms Furlong Alexanderson, who was born in Mexico, Wenona had its very own altar set up in the Undercroft, complete with brightly coloured paper marigolds.

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Food is a huge part of the celebrations as the belief is that the ancestral spirits work up a serious hunger travelling back to the realm of the living. At home, altars or ‘ofrendas’ are at the core of the celebrations, loaded with offerings like ‘pan de muertos’ or ‘bread of the dead’ to lure spirits back.

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And at recess, our Spanish students collected their very own ‘pan de muertos’, and enjoyed eating it to the joyous sounds of the Mexican mariachi band.

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Yesterday, Spanish students also enjoyed a Mexican cookery class. “The students experienced a full immersive language and cultural experience during the cooking class," said Ms Furlong Alexanderson. "The chef, Paola Brunet, spoke only español and the recipes, written only in Spanish, featured traditional Mexican dishes such as quesadillas, crepas con conjeta, guacamole and rajas con crema y elote.”

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Best of all, they then set down to eat it all! Buen provecho!

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When learning a new language at Wenona, our students also learn about cultural differences, which helps to broaden their perspective of the world and bring a sense of place to the languages they are studying.

“In class, students have been learning about the topic La comida (food) and the focus on cultural elements brought on conversations about traditional foods in Hispanic countries," explained Ms Furlong Alexanderson. "Students learnt about the thousands of different corn types in Mexico and the different methods of cooking traditional foods. During the cooking class, they used their listening, reading and speaking skills in order to make the dishes successfully.”

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A huge thank you to Ms Furlong Alexanderson, Ms Cremin and Mr Boschiero for bringing Spanish and the cultures and traditions of Mexico alive this week!

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Feliz día de los Muertos everyone!

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