Fast Facts | Mexico's 'Day of the Dead'

  • Bunnik Tours
  • 07 Oct 20

Unlike its scary name may suggest, the Day of the Dead is actually a celebration of life, paying respect to, and honouring those that have passed. Customarily observed throughout Latin America, the tradition has grown to all Latino populated regions of the world.

Day of the Dead, Mexico City, by Filiberto Santillán on Unsplash

Day of the Dead, Mexico City, by Filiberto Santillán on Unsplash

Check out our 15 fast facts to learn just what makes this festive occasion a must see on any trip to Mexico!

1.   A two day event, Dia de los Muertos, or ‘The Day of the Dead’ is celebrated each year on November 1st & 2nd.

2.   In the days prior to the event, it is customary to erect a shrine of offerings, or ‘Ofrendas’, made from colourful flowers, paper crafts and topped with photos of the deceased, together with food and objects they had enjoyed in life.

3.   This long and rich tradition dates back over 2,000 years.

4.   Orange marigolds are seen everywhere with the belief that they can bring the deceased’s soul back to the land of the living.

Orange & Purple

Photo by Filiberto Santillán on Unsplash

5.   The traditional festival colours are orange and purple.

6.   The Day of the Dead is not Mexico’s answer to Halloween. The day focuses on receiving souls of their ancestors with happiness and hospitality.

7.   In 2008 UNESCO included the Day of the Dead holiday in the representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

8.   Food is a big part of the celebrations, with Pan de Muertos, bread often coated in sugar, being an essential part of the offering placed at the deceased’s alters.

9.   Sugar Skulls are a key symbol of this festive day. Composed of granulated sugar that is moulded into a skull shape, they are colourfully decorated before being placed at the shrines.     

Sugar Skulls

Photo by Eduardo Dorantes on Unsplash 

Flags and offerings

Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

10.   The paper, crafted flags, known as ‘papel picado’ adorn the streets as the traditional flag of the day, typically seen with incredible images carefully chiselled out of them.

11.   The opening scene from the 2015 James Bond movie, Spectre, featured amazing images of the Day of the Dead parade, filmed in Mexico City. This movie actually prompted the first, grand parade held in Mexico City, previously just reserved for private homes or cemeteries.

12.   The tradition is formed from a mix of indigenous Aztec rituals and Catholicism, brought in by the Spanish conquistadores.

13.   Dia de los Muertos was originally celebrated in August, but following the Spanish expansion into Mexico, moved to November for the Catholic All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

14.   Calacas is the word for ‘skeletons’, while skulls are ‘calaveras’. Throughout the festivities you will see depictions of ‘La Catrina calacas’, a ubiquitous symbol of Mexico’s Grand Dame of Death.

Day of the Dead Skeletons

Photo by Valeria Almaraz on Unsplash

15.   Aguas Calientes, the town famed as the gateway to Machu Picchu, celebrates this time with an extended week-long Festival de Calaveras, that concludes with a grand procession of skulls along Avenida Madero.

Check out our Mexico small group tours here.