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Mexico: Day of the Dead

Date Posted: 30/10/2018

Oh my gourd! It’s nearly Halloween!

Originating from the Celtic Pagan festival of Samhain, Halloween has been around for thousands of years. The festival was to celebrate the end of Harvest; with Gaels believing that spirits came back to life to destroy crops. They believed that dressing up in costumes protected them from the ghostly spirits and would even carve turnips to stop fairies from settling in their homes.

During the middle ages, children would dress up in old clothes and mimic evil spirits on Halloween, which was then known as the Eve of All Saints Day or All Hallows Eve. Going from house to house, they would be given offerings for warding off evil.

Here in the UK, we stick to this tradition with both children and adults dressing up in their scariest outfit. 

Halloween is celebrated by millions around the world and in parts of the world Halloween is seen as a celebration of deceased loved ones to welcome their spirits back to earth. Most famous for this celebration are the Mexicans, with their Day of the Dead.

On 1 and 2 November, Mexicans take to the streets to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos or better known to us as Day of the Dead.

Over the course of the two days, Mexicans welcome back to earth the souls of their deceased ones in a celebration of life and their loved ones who have passed away. The Day of the Dead is a colourful, lively celebration which 007 even attended himself in the film Spectre. The celebrations start with the construction of elaborate altars, candlelight processions, and decorating loved ones graves with emblematic marigolds.

We’ve taken a look at the top 5 destinations that truly capture the magic that is Dia de Los Muertos!


1. San Miguel de Allende


Throwing a party like no other San Miguel de Allende has a five day La Calaca Festival that comes complete with art installations, plays, live performances, public altars, and processions as well as DJ-hosted dance parties! Sticking to Halloween traditions, the men and women even don elaborate costumes and make up to transform themselves into Catrines and Catrinas, passing out candy to children.


2. Merida


With cooking at the heart of their celebration, the Mayan town of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula welcomes their dead with Hanal Pixan – ‘food of the souls’.  The multi-layered celebration sees the passage of the souls or Paseo de Las Animas through shut down streets with musical performances and showcasing altars; before finishing with a Mayan ceremony in the town’s main cemetery.


3. Mexico City

DID YOU KNOW: Until James Bond came to town Mexico City didn’t have a full blown festival? It was only after the 2016 film Spectre showcased a scene of the holiday’s festivities in the city’s main plaza, did the city then decide to throw its own Day of the Dead parade.


Make sure you don’t miss the party in Zocalo! The main square is packed with traditional shrines and a stage with live music. When the sun goes down, fright night looms with people dressing up in their scariest costumes.

If you’re looking for something more authentic, head south east of the city centre to San Andres Mixquic. Thousands of capitalinos take to the altar-lined streets for the midnight procession. The ex-convent and church also decorates its main cemetery with thousands of candles and marigolds.


4. Michoacán


In the north-western region of Michoacán the Purepechaa group of indigenous people honour the dead with sacred midnight vigils that begin on 1 November at sunset and continue until dawn. On the main island on Lake Patzcuaro, Janitzio cemeteries fill with crowds and rowing boats light up the lake – a truly breath-taking sight.  


5. Oaxaca

In Oaxaca the celebrations continue with musicians and costume displays through the city. However, the local artists here pay tribute to the dead with colourful sand tapestries created into elaborate memorials, the grandest of them all can be found next to La Soledad Church in the city’s main plaza.

We hope you have a spooktacular Halloween!


DID YOU KNOW: La Catrina or “Lady of the Dead” is the female skeleton wearing a big hat?  The Lady of the Dead was the goddess that the pre-Colombian people worshipped.