Unlike its name may suggest, the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico is actually a celebration of life, paying respect to, and honouring those who have passed. Customarily observed throughout Latin America, the tradition has grown to all Latino populated regions of the world. Check out our 15 fast facts to learn just what makes this festive occasion a must see on any trip to Mexico!
- Day of the Dead festival in Mexico - 15 facts
- Experience Mexico's Day of the Dead on a tour with Bunnik
1. A two day event, Dia de los Muertos, or ‘The Day of the Dead’ Festival in Mexico City is celebrated each year on November 1st & 2nd.
2. In the days leading up to the event, it is customary to erect a shrine of offerings, or ‘Ofrendas’. These can include colourful flowers or paper crafts, which are then topped with photos of the deceased and paired with some food and objects they had enjoyed in life.
3. The exact origin of the Day of the Dead festival is unclear, but it is thought to date back as many as 3,000 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 Marigolds, 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 commemorating the 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) being an essential part of the offerings placed at the deceased’s altars.
9. Sugar skulls are a key symbol of this festive day. They are composed of granulated sugar that is moulded into a skull shape. Sugar skulls are then colourfully decorated before being placed at the shrines.
Sugar skulls, photo by Eduardo Dorantes on Unsplash
Sugar skull figures, photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash
10. The crafted paper flags, known as ‘papel picado’, adorn the streets as the traditional flag of the day. They are typically seen with incredible images carefully chiselled out of them.
11. The opening scene from the 2015 James Bond film, Spectre, featured amazing images of the Day of the Dead parade 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.
La Catrina calacas, 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. This concludes with a grand procession of skulls along Avenida Madero.
If you’re interested in visiting Mexico and experiencing the infamous Day of the Dead celebrations, then now is the best time to book a small group tour with Bunnik! We offer a 17 day Viva Mexico tour that takes you through all the highlights of this beautiful country, from the colourful markets of San Cristobal and the Agua Azul Waterfalls to the serene Playa del Carmen and more.
Plus, we offer a Viva Mexico - Day of the Dead Festival tour for those of you who want to experience the hustle and bustle of Mexico and this exciting festival. If you have any questions about this blog or booking a tour, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Travel Specialists today.
What is the best place to celebrate the Day of the Dead Festival?
Oaxaca is the most popular destination for the Day of the Dead Festival. On a tour with Bunnik, you will be able to take part in the festivities yourself.
What food is eaten on the Day of the Day Festival?
There are many traditional foods and drinks eaten on the Day of the Dead. These include:
- Pan de muerto
- Corn drink atole
- Calabaza en Tacha
- Alegrias candy
- Hot chocolate
How do you celebrate the Day of the Dead respectfully?
If you’re taking part in the Day of the Dead tradition this year, these are the best ways to celebrate respectfully (whether you’re at home or in Mexico!):
- Watch impressive Day of the Dead parades
- Visit a graveyard of passed family members
- Enjoy some pan de muerto bread
- Make some sugar skulls
- Host a Day of the Dead dinner party
- Dress up as a Catrin or Catrina
- Wear sugar skull makeup
- Watch Disney’s Coco