Mictecacihuatl (pronounced Meekteckaseewadl), also known as the Lady of the Dead, was the Aztec goddess of Death. I haven’t been able to find out for certain whether she died as her mother gave birth to her, or was sacrificed to the gods as a small child, but either way she died young and grew to adulthood in the Afterlife.
According to Aztec legends, the human race was created from the bones of a previous race, which had been stolen by the gods. To prevent this happening again, Mictecacihuatl, who was now the Queen of the Underworld, was tasked with guarding the bones of the dead so that they could never be stolen to create a future race.
Related post: The Day of the Dead
This festival is celebrated in Mexico on the 1st and 2nd November. It is a day when families gather together to remember their loved ones who have died.
Despite being celebrated so close to Halloween, there is nothing ghoulish about the Day of the Dead (or el Día de Muertos as it’s known in Spanish), nor is it a sombre occasion. Families don’t get together to mourn their dead, but rather to celebrate their life. They make altars for their loved ones, or visit their graves and decorate the gravestones, often even having a picnic at the graveside.
It is said that the spirits of the dead come back to earth for one day, first babies and children who have died and later the adults. The festival coincides with All Saints’ Day (1st November) and All Souls’ Day (2nd November), but like many dates in the Christian calendar, the festival has its roots much further back in time than the arrival of Christianity in Mexico, dating back to the Aztecs.
It was a festival to honour the Goddess of Death, Mictecacihuatl, and originally lasted for the whole of the 9th month of the Aztec calendar (from around mid July to mid August). The Spanish conquistadores tried to eradicate the festival, but the Aztecs clung tightly to their beliefs.
Eventually the festival was reduced to just two days and was moved to coincide with appropriate dates in the Christian calendar. However the celebrations still have a nod towards the original Aztec celebrations, and Mictecacihuatl, in the guise of a well-dressed skeleton, still plays an important role.
Here are some links to videos to explain to children what the Day of the Dead is all about: Day of the Dead 1st video , Day of the Dead 2nd video, Oaxaca: The Day of the Dead
I also found this post about Day of the Dead in Poland.