Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a traditional Mexican holiday where families honor and remember the loved ones who have since passed on.
This joyful and colorful celebration full of food, dancing, and elaborate costumes takes place every year in Mexico from October 28th through November 2nd.
And should you ever decide to visit Mexico during Dia de Muertos, we here at Proud American Traveler want to share some of the best ways you can experience and celebrate this ancient holiday.
Not To Be Confused With Halloween
Although Day of the Dead merchandise, and its well-known “sugar skull,” is a very popular theme during Halloween, Dia de Muertos and Halloween are two completely unrelated holidays.
Dia de Muertos came from the Spanish Catholic tradition of All Saints Day and the Pre-Hispanic belief of honoring the dead and one’s ancestors.
In Pre-Hispanic culture, the dead were buried close to the family home—and sometimes even under it— to keep the deceased close to their surviving loved ones.
Today, Dia de Muertos is celebrated in several exciting ways with unique traditions that have been passed down for generations.
The festivals celebrate the belief that for one day out of the year, the dead can return to this world to visit their family. Mexicans spend this time decorating cemeteries, leaving food offerings, and visiting the graves of loved ones.
Special altars or “ofrendas” are placed in the family home that include pictures of the deceased, their favorite foods, and keepsakes they once loved.
Marigolds, sugar skulls, and festive breads known as “pan de Muertos” are also part of this tradition.
Visiting Mexico During Day Of The Dead
Visiting Mexico during Dia de Muertos is a special time. You’ll get to witness these time-honored traditions up close and experience all the wonder of this holiday.
Larger cities will often hold parades and street festivals where participants dress up in colorful costumes and makeup. Vigils are also held during mass and at cemeteries.
Where to Go?
While Dia de Muertos is celebrated all over Mexico, there are a few places you’ll definitely want to visit during the holiday!
Xcaret Park, Riveria Maya
This beautiful theme park hosts Festival de la Vida y la Muerte (Festival of Life and Death) each year and includes special concerts, parades, dances, and performances.
If you want to experience a more traditional celebration, you’ll want to visit Janitzio Island.
This small island’s Dia de Muertos is more solemn and reserved, dating back to the origins of the holiday. In fact, many believe Janitzio is where the holiday first originated.
What better place to celebrate Dia de Muertos than Mexico’s capital city?
Every year, millions flock to this city for its festivals, parades, and celebrations to honor the loved ones no longer with them.
Throughout the entire city, and even in the museums, you’ll find food vendors, dancing, exhibitions, and handmade souvenirs. Mexico City’s main square is decorated full of marigold flowers and shrines honoring the dead. Mariachi and Mexican bands play while people dance and sing.
You can also take a guided tour of the Mexican Underground during Dia de Muertos.
Aguascalientes honors their departed with its Festival de las Calaveras, or Festival of the Skulls, each year.
This large festival takes place on the city’s fairgrounds with countless vendors selling traditional foods.
There is also dancing and theater productions, all leading up to one big parade.
For another traditional celebration of Dia de Muertos, visit Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
Unlike the parades and festivals that have come about in recent years, Oaxaca honors Dia de Muertos with beautiful handmade alters designed by residents and school children. Their cemeteries are decorated and lit up with candles as well.
In addition, beautiful sand tapestries depicting religious icons or saints are found here in Oaxaca. These tapestries hold a special meaning for the holiday. Traditionally, after a loved one had died, the family would make a tapestry of sand and scatter the sand over their grave nine days later.
Dia de Muertos is a rich and beautiful holiday steeped in culture and tradition. It’s a time when families and communities can come together to honor and celebrate their departed loved ones.
Please tell us if you have ever been to Mexico during Dia de Muertos!