Celebrating The Day of The Dead!
Whether in Michoacán, Oaxaca, Mérida or Mexico City, do not miss this celebration full of tradition and meaning
TRADITIONS OF MEXICO
This year the Day of the Dead Parade in Mexico City will be held on Sunday, October 30
What is Day of The Dead?
The roots of the Day of the Dead go back some 3,000 years, to the rituals honoring the dead in pre-hispanic Mesoamerica. The Aztecs held a cyclical view of the universe, and saw death as an integral, ever-present part of life.
Day of the Dead is not a somber affair in Mexico — since the Aztec era, it has always been a lively celebration to honor the deceased. Today, Dia de Muertos is a blend of Mesoamerican ritual, European religion and Spanish culture. It’s definitely not the “Mexican version of Halloween.”
The holiday was even added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage as “a defining aspect of Mexican culture.”
"Day of the Dead is not a somber affair in Mexico - since the Aztec era, it has always been a lively celebration to honor the deceased."
Where is celebrated the Day of The Dead?
Día de los Muertos is observed throughout Mexico and along the southern U.S. borderlands. To experience it yourself, here are four destinations where Día de los Muertos festivities are particularly lively:
One of Mexico’s most famous Día de los Muertos celebrations takes place on the small island of Janitzio in Lake Pátzcuaro, located in the Mexican state of Michoacán (directly west of Mexico City and below the state of Jalisco). Every year on November 1, thousands of visitors gather in the local panteón (cemetery) to watch as the indigenous Purepecha people perform lively Día de los Muertos rituals late into the night. There are processions with music and folk dance performances, but the most impressive sight might be when local fishermen in rowboats illuminate the lake with torches.
The southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is known for its mezcal distilleries, traditional artisans, and generally well-preserved culture. During Día de los Muertos, colorful celebrations occur in Oaxaca City as well as in smaller villages across the region. From October 31 through November 2, the largest graveyard in Oaxaca City, Panteón de San Miguel, is decorated with pan de muerto, marigold flowers, candles, and other offerings.
Just a 20-minute taxi ride from the city in the Oaxacan village of Xoxocotlán, both the Panteón Viejo and Panteón Nuevo cemeteries attract crowds to candlelit gravesites backed by live mariachi bands.
How is Dia de Muertos celebrated?
Traditionally, the Day of the Dead has always been a family affair. Families erect ofrendas (altar offerings) to honor their deceased family members. They then decorate the altar with candles, opal incense, marigold flowers, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks.
These days, the celebrations have evolved over time but they’re still centered on Mexican traditions. Museums display massive ofrendas, squares and avenues are lined with colorful alebrijes (mythical creatures) and calaveras (skulls), while every shop and restaurant is decorated with papel picado (paper flags).
On the streets, you’ll see many people dressed as La Catrina, with beautiful face paint and floral headbands. Get your face painted, put on a flower head-band, and prepare for one hell of a party!
"To experience Day of The Dead yourself, here are four destinations where Día de los Muertos festivities are particularly lively..."
"The highlight of the capital’s festivities is arguably its parade, the Desfile de Día de Muertos, which was first held in 2016 and inspired by the opening scene of the James Bond film Spectre."
In Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Day of the Dead celebrations are known as Hanal Pixan, or “feast for the souls.” During the holiday, many families in the Mayan region prepare elaborate traditional dishes for the return of their ancestors (in addition to participating in evening processions and setting up ofrendas in their homes). Intricate altars go on display in the zócalo (main square) of the Yucatán capital, Mérida, and the decorated gravesites in local cemeteries are also well worth seeing.
In Mexico City, Día de los Muertos can be a week-long affair. In past years, the highlight of the capital’s festivities was arguably its parade, the Desfile de Día de Muertos, which was first held in 2016 and inspired by the opening scene of the James Bond film Spectre, which features a crowded procession in the city’s streets. This year, however, due to the coronavirus, the parade will be noticeably less over the top (if there is one at all).
Usually, though, thousands of people gather in Mexico City’s Plaza del Zócalo to watch performers parade around dressed as colorful alebrijes (mythical creatures) or the elegant La Calavera Catrina. On the outskirts of the capital in the southern Xochimilco neighborhood, decorated canals and chinampas (floating gardens) set the scene for special night Día de los Muertos rides by trajinera (gondola boat) on November 1.
This year the Day of the Dead Parade in Mexico City will be held on Sunday, October 30.
We trully expect that you will come to celebrate with Us this year!
The Dia de Muertos holiday in Mexico is a real tourist sensation so hotel reservations and activities are quickly covered. If you want to plan your group for 2023 we are already working on it!
Sources: Adapted from https://mexicotravel.blog/day-of-the-dead-in-mexico-city/ january 14,2022 & https://www.afar.com/magazine/where-to-celebrate-day-of-the-dead-in-mexico september 3, 2021
Published by DMS de México All rights rserved 2022