Dead Man’s Party – Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos artwork by one of our hmns bloggers!

Halloween is this Saturday and everyone is scrambling to put together their costumes and figuring out what parties to go to Friday and Saturday. But what are your plans for Dia de los Muertos on November 2nd!?

The education department here at HMNS offered an encore event to last year’s very popular Dia de los Muertos Educator Overnight and teachers came from all over the greater Houston area to learn about this incredible holiday and how to do some activities with their own students so that they may learn more about the culture. If you want to learn how to make sugar skulls check out this guide online – it has some great tips on how to make some incredible shaped sugar treasures!

Above you’ll see an artwork that references La Calavera Catrina, an etching done by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadelupe Posada in 1913. La Catrina and some of Posada’s other artwork is reproduced and can be seen around town available on book bags, t-shirts and in jewelry – especially around Dia de los Muertos. This piece pictured here is composed completely out of dyed eggshells by one of our very own hmns bloggers!

Below are some of the fun hands on activities and projects the teachers did at the Overnight this year and don’t worry – we’re already thinking up some cool ideas for “Dia de los Muertos II – the Overnight Sequel for Educators” – next October! Drop me a line if you want to receive notice when we start accepting registrations for this Overnight in 2010 – overnights@hmns.org.

Decorating sugar skulls
Decorating sugar skulls
Calacas puppet in progress
Calacas puppet in progress
Cigar box altar
Cigar box altar
This tiny clay skull is perfect for a tiny cigar box altar table!
This tiny clay skull
is perfect for a tiny cigar box altar table!
Completed sugar skulls!
Completed sugar skulls!

Happy Birthday Year!

Almost everyone knows what a birthday party is, how delicious birthday cake is (especially if it’s of the ice cream variety), and may even know the joy of giving and receiving a birthday present. But did you know that this year is HMNS’ 100th birthday? The Houston Museum of Natural Science provides a center stage and a spotlight for a global variety of invaluable natural treasures. In light of this fact, let’s learn all about how birthdays are celebrated around the world, and how some of these birthday traditions came to be.

Feliz cumpleaños, Rocío
Creative Commons License photo credit: tupolev y su cámara

*In India, receiving a gift wrapped in white and black is considered bad luck.

*Ever had “Fairy Bread”? Well, if you had a birthday in Australia, you sure would have. Children there eat a snack of buttered bread covered in tiny, colorful sprinkles called “hundreds and thousands.”

*In numerous African cultures, the actual date of a child’s birth is not celebrated. Instead, when children in Africa reach a certain designated age, they are initiated into their community.

*Don’t like birthday cake? Move to Russia! There, many receive a birthday pie with a greeting carved into the crust instead of the traditional cake and candles we know here in the States.

* In the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, a birthday boy or girl is playfully attacked by friends and family who grease their nose with butter! The belief is that this will make the child too slippery for bad luck to grab hold of.

*Singing the song “Happy Birthday to You” is a well known tradition around the world. It was written by two American sisters in 1893, and has since been translated into many languages

*If you can’t carry a tune, become a Kiwi! In New Zealand, the birthday song is often sung loudly and out of tune just before the birthday person gets clapped on the back for each year he or she has been alive, then one for good luck.

Candles
Creative Commons License photo credit: brunkfordbraun

So those are all about the how part of birthdays parties, but why the celebration? Thousands of years ago, a person’s birthday was thought to be a time when evil spirits could cause them harm, as this was a day of change in a person’s life.  People back then believed that surrounding the privileged individual, giving gifts and offering good wishes was the only way to keep the evil spirits at bay, thus the birthday party was born!

The Houston Museum of Natural Science’s birthday year is already half over! All it really wants as a gift is visitors! So make a trip down today and see what sights you can take home as party favors. Interested in more? Visit hmns.org and click on HMNS at One Hundred to find out all of the ways we are celebrating a century of science this year.