"Day of the Dead" Skeleton Graveyard

Create a spooky graveyard spectacle based on the traditional Mexican holiday celebration.

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Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and by Mexican Americans during the first week of November. At the heart of the celebration is the concept of gathering together to honor friends and family members who have died. Skeletons and the skulls form a central decorative theme, while toys are placed next to the "graves" to honor children. Colorful decorations are plentiful, and skeleton figurines, called Catrinas, dressed in colorful clothing also play a part.

Because the traditional Mexican holiday the Day of the Dead falls near Halloween, designer Sandra Espinet suggests incorporating Day of the Dead skeletons and graveyards into your Halloween decorations, blending the two cultural themes celebrating both holidays at once. The "grave sites" are easy to put together, and you can create an entire skeleton graveyard in your front yard in no time.

Materials and Tools:

black plastic garbage bags (30 gallon)
potting soil (one 2-cubic-foot bag per grave)
large plastic skeleton or skeleton bones (available at most Halloween supply stores)
dead leaves

Other decorations may include: candles, paper flowers, Catrina figurines, crosses, small toys, old family photos and other colorful decorations to augment the theme.

Steps:

1. Select a suitable location in the front yard.

2. Place a cross upright in lawn.

3. Roll out the garbage bag on the ground at the foot of the cross. Place skeleton or skull at the top end of the bag.

4. Spread potting soil onto the bag, concealing the bag completely.

5. Arrange the skeleton bones in the soil, creating the general shape of a skeleton, so that some parts are partially covered and others are clearly visible.

6. Add more dirt as needed to achieve the look of a half-buried skeleton.

7. Decorate around the skeleton using colorful flowers, lit candles, Catrina dolls, photos or other Day of the Dead offerings. Sprinkling dead leaves around gravesite helps add an autumn motif.

Tip: You can use standard landscaping lights, placing them at strategic locations, to cast shadows on the skeleton graveyard, creating a dramatically spooky effect.

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