Day of the Dead: everything you need to know about the most famous Mexican fiesta

Don’t call it Halloween, not even All Saints Day, it’s called Día de Muertos, and it’s one of the most anticipated events in the Mexican calendar. But don’t be confused by the name: it’s not a macabre or sad celebration, in fact it’s one of the most beautiful and exciting parties in the world. The Day of the Dead is a very special moment in those regions of Mexico where it is most celebrated, with a background that, if you watch the film of Coco, you know that it moves even the coldest heart.

It is yet another demonstration of Mexico’s cultural richness and the enormous importance of the family. Because the Day of the Dead is a tribute to the ancestors, but seasoned with music and full of colors. Unlike in other parts of the world, where death is treated in a sad and tragic way, in Mexico it is considered a natural step in life, and is celebrated in style.

If you are looking for information about this peculiar festivity, you are in the right place: we will tell you when, where and how the Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico.

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When the Day of the Dead is celebrated

It takes place the night between 1 and 2 November (although celebrations start a few days earlier).

How the Day of the Dead is celebrated

According to tradition, during this night the souls of the dead return to visit their homes. The relatives place an altar in the houses, where they place the photos of their deceased and decorate it with offerings to receive them as they deserve.

These are the most common celebrations:

– Already during the previous days the streets and houses were filled with orange marigold flowers, which perfumed the road that the dead have to travel.

– People, and especially children, paint their faces like skulls.

– It is customary to visit the cemeteries and place candles, flowers and souvenirs in the tombs.

– The altars for the dead, made of various levels, are filled with photos and also with objects related to the 4 elements:

Incense represents the air and helps souls find their way.
The candles represent the fire and shine reminiscent of the ancestor.
Food, desserts and marigold flowers represent the earth and serve to satisfy the hunger of the deceased.
The shots of tequila, represent the water and in this case serve to quench your thirst.

Always keep in mind that, rather than a sad moment, it is a day to remember our ancestors and to celebrate how beautiful life is. What’s cool about it?

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Where the Day of the Dead is celebrated

There are areas and cities in Mexico where this day is celebrated more than in others. The best places to enjoy this party are:

Pátzcuaro, Michoacán

The state of Michoacan is perhaps where this celebration is most intensely experienced, and in particular the city of Pátzcuaro. There, the relatives visit the graves of the ancestors, decorate them with flowers, drinks, candles and food, and spend the night in the cemeteries awaiting the arrival of the souls.

Mixquic, Mexico City

If you’re in the capital during the Day of the Dead celebration, good news! This small town, southeast of the big city, is home to one of the most impressive parades in the country. The streets are flooded with catrinas, skeletons and “souls”, and it seems as if death comes to life step by step… A spectacle to live (at least) once in a lifetime.

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Oaxaca, Oaxaca

Another city where you can make the most of the Day of the Dead is Oaxaca. On November 1 and 2 the streets and cemeteries are filled with flowers, candles and music.

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Merida, Yucatan

Here the tradition of the Day of the Dead originates in a Mayan festival, the Hanal Pixán. Everything begins in the general cemetery, where at dusk takes place the “Paso de las Almas”, in which thousands of people disguised as catrinas, skeletons and with the face painted skull, begin their march towards the center of the city. Along the way there are hundreds of posts and altars.

The latter is where we were lucky enough to live it and it was one of the best experiences we had in our travels. It is an emotional and enriching moment, a feast that teaches you that no one leaves this world altogether if it is still remembered, where we are all responsible for “illuminating” the way back for souls and, in short, teaches you to pay homage to something so intrinsic to life as death.

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About the authors

“Travel, gastronomy and art are the great passions of Rober and Lety, a couple who have felt tiny watching the sunrise in Burma, have travelled in a bus with a goat on the roof in the Philippines, have bathed under the Milky Way in New Zealand and… better discover more adventures on their blog: motto: if many dream the same as you, dream stronger!

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