Day of the Dead is
a holiday celebrated throughout the Americas and combines
ancient indigenous traditions and modern fanfare. It's a whimsical
and yet serious holiday that primarily takes place between
October 31st and November 2nd.
have the most spectacular festivals in the hemisphere. Well
known are festivities in Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Mexico
Day of the Dead is literally a world away from Halloween
and has more in common with the holiday of Thanksgiving
as celebrated in Canada and the USA. For many Mexicans --
and particularly Oaxacans -- Day of the Dead is the favorite
holiday of the year, easily surpassing Christmas.
The dead are not remembered or commemorated. Instead they
are considered present. This is a celebration with
the dead, not of the dead.
Love rules the holiday as families believe that the souls
of the departed return to visit living relatives. There is
an abundance of food and drink, the favorites of the deceased.
Family altars are vibrant and showcase the love for deceased.
The living shower the deceased with food and presents and
decorate the graves and recount their stories of their loved
ones. Yellow is the most visible color on the altars decorated
with bright marigold flowers (cempasúchil, see photo).
A symbolic buffet of favorite food and drinks serves the deceased.
Trails of the marigolds lead like runways to guide spirits
home back to their loved ones. The distinctive scent of marigolds
are said to attract the dead. Other flowers include Flor de
Muerto and Cresta de Gallo (Cockscomb). Altars have candles
that are important for their light and their smoke. Copal
- the sap from the tree also used to make alebrijes - is burned
for a sweet incense.
Day of the Dead coincides with harvest time. The rainy season
ends at the close of the hurricane season and farmers share
CRAFTS AND FOOD
Many foreigners are introduced to Day of the Dead via handicrafts,
including paper mache skeletons (calacas) and candy skulls.
Sweets and candy skulls are traditionally intended for the
souls of departed children, who return to earth in the late
afternoon of October 31.
Day of the Dead Bread (Pan de muertos) is decorated with
strips of dough which appear like human bones. Bread is one
of the centerpiece items on every altar. Extra loaves are
shared with mortal guests.
Another traditional dish is the calabaza en tacha, cooked
squash sweetened with cinnamon and brown sugar (see
Day of the Dead is one of the biggest holidays of the year.
Tours to nearby villages are conducted with respect. Travel
guides and hotels arrange guided trips for guests and friends
to local cemeteries. For those seeking guided tours in English,
check out the Oaxaca
One of the most famous celebrations takes place on the island
of Janitzio in Lake
At night, boats are decorated with candles and flowers, loaded
with local villagers and visitors who are taken to the island's
cemetery. There they spend the night, summoning back the dead
in celebration. There are times when the number of travelers
the comfort for all.
Dead of the Dead altars are a focal point of many museums
and public spaces. Among the most noted places to visit are
the Diego Rivera Museum and the Popular Culture Museum in
Coyoacan. In the southern part of the city, there is a famous
celebration in the village of San Andrés Mixquic. Locals
go to the graves early on September 16th to invite loved ones
to the Muertos reunion.
hosts the annual Feria del alfeñique which celebrates
the art of making candy skulls.
Day of the Dead is celebrated with a special touch at Guanajuato