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Languages, Cultures and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

National Schools Mexican Day of the Dead Altar Video Competition 2022

The Mexican Embassy in the UK and co-collaborator Dr Jane Lavery (Southampton University, Languages, Cultures and Linguistics) had the pleasure of inviting school children across England to participate in the first National Schools Mexican Day of the Dead Altar Video Competition!

With its Catholic and Aztec roots, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an important event which is celebrated annually on 1st and 2nd November. It comprises a beautiful series of rituals where many Mexicans in Mexico, the USA, across the UK and globally, happily and lovingly honour the lives of many departed ancestors. Families remember their dead, place altars in their homes, decorate tombs and attend huge street events.

The Embassy-MLL collaboration emerged from Lavery’s research-led initiative to run the video competition and for schools to engage generally in curriculum enrichment activities. The initiative is driven by Lavery’s research on the practice. The purpose of the school activities and video is to encourage participants to learn through active creative hands-on engagement about this fascinating cultural festival. The video and activities are an important way of celebrating cultural differences and inclusivity, as well as of highlighting that the Día de Muertos is not a ‘Mexican Halloween.’ The initiative is also aimed at enriching school curriculum for children and helping teachers with CPD and teaching material provision.

The activities conducted by children and the videos submitted by schools across England, and made by children from all secondary school years (7-13) and from different departments, capture the children’s wonderful creative energy. The children engaged in cross-curricular activities such as cooking, art-craft making, altar building, singing, writing poetry, costume making and face-painting. Other schools who did not take part in the competition, did nevertheless run related Day of the Dead activities with their pupils following the call for video submissions and schools’ engagement.

Overall, over 1000 children and teachers across England were engaged in Day of the Dead activities following the 2022 call!

National Schools Día de Muertos Altar Video Awards Ceremony 2022

On 5th December Mexican Ambassador to the UK, Josefa González-Blanco, and Jane Lavery welcomed participating schools to the National Schools Día de Muertos Video Awards Ceremony to announce the winners. After the top four winners were announced on the online event hosted by Southampton University’s LCL, the winning videos were also played. All school students received a digital certificate of achievement signed by LCL and the Ambassador to the UK. The top four winners received a prize: a hamper and personalised trophy, courtesy of the Embassy and Southampton University’s Modern Languages and Linguistics. The ambassador also tweeted about the event on the embassy’s Twitter account

The Embassy and Lavery will be running the competition again next year. This initiative is vital in continuing to foster important collaboration with the embassy as part of their strategic affairs to promote Mexican culture in the UK; with schools in England; and Mexico-UK relations which the University of Southampton, LCL and the former MeXsu centre have established for many years now, and to promote Mexican culture and society in the UK.

The 2022 Video Competition Winners

Here is a list of the top four winners and their videos:

  1. Highcliffe School Hampshire 
  2. Peter Symonds College, Winchester 
  3. Mulberry School for Girls, London 
  4. West Buckland School, North Devon 

Bournemouth Echo Covers Story of Highcliffe winners!

A Resounding Success: Testimonials

Feedback from Year 7-13 school children and their teachers was outstanding as captured in the below testimonials and here. With all schools having never been involved in conducting Day of the Dead activities such as these, overall teachers felt that Jane Lavery’s research-led initiative in collaboration with the Embassy, benefitted and enhanced their curriculum and teaching material provision; and children felt that it was a fun, productive, motivational and culturally enriching learning experience.  

What did pupils think?

‘The activities definitely make learning more fun and enjoyable.’ 

‘It was fun making the altar’

‘We all did different things to add to making the video including some people brought food, or made decorations or made the video but we all sang the song in the video.’

‘It was a good activity because everyone was involved, we were still learning but it was fun’

‘I felt independent and enjoyed the celebration.’

‘It was a collaborative process.’

‘I did know some things about Day of the Dead, but I didn’t know about it in so much detail as I do now, for example I learnt that you put the person’s favourite food on their altar. This is the first time I have been part of a project like this.’

‘I found learning about the ritual very interesting, very insightful and inspirational and I am excited to continue to learn’

See more pupil feedback here:


What did teachers think?

‘Following Dr Jane Lavery’s research-led initiative, our students designed the elements that they wanted to include for their video, under my guidance. This was the first time that the department had been involved in such a project. All Spanish classes from Years 7 through to 13 (700 pupils!) got involved in the project creating paper cempasúchil flowers, papel picado, calavera skulls, corazones de milagro, nichos and writing satirical calavera poems. Some of the materials were sourced from the Dorset Scrapstore in order to comply with the competition’s recycling requirements. The Year 11 students then put the altar together including pictures of the Queen, her favourite foods of chocolate and afternoon tea and other traditional elements.’

‘The students got involved from the beginning and gave 100% effort. All this video is theirs, not much teacher help a part from some encouragement to win!!  They have put it together technologically speaking as well as constructing the altar, getting pictures, making crosses/flowers/skulls out of recycling materials, baking, cooking, singing, reciting a poem, painting faces and couple of students played the background music on the piano and guitar. As a teacher I have loved the challenge,’

‘It has been the first time and we have really enjoyed it. We will definitely do it again.’

See further feedback from teachers:

Other feedback: ;


Highcliffe Secondary
Highcliffe Secondary, altar and winners of the 2022 video competition
Highcliffe School trophy
1st place trophy
Trophies for top four winners
Trophies for top four winners
Visuals of Arts-based and creative expression activities in schools
Visuals of Arts-based and creative expression activities in schools
Visuals of Arts-based and creative expression activities in schools
Visuals of Arts-based and creative expression activities in schools
Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School altar
Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School, Kent. Year 7 built an altar
Salesian College Farnborough, Year 8
Salesian College Farnborough, Year 8
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