October is here and autumn is in full swing. When most Americans think of October, they think of Halloween and all of the spookiness that’s associated with the holiday. It’s likely that cobweb and tombstone decorations have already started to appear around the neighborhood.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead festival coincides with Halloween. While the celebration was traditionally held during the summer, today it begins on the Catholic holiday of All Saints’ Eve (October 31), and it ends on November 2. If you are planning a trip to Mexico, visiting around the Day of the Dead is a fantastic way to experience Mexican culture.
Things to Keep in Mind
The Day of the Dead is not the same as Halloween. Today Halloween is mostly a children’s holiday, but some adults dress up as well and go to parties. The Day of the Dead is a more reflective celebration. Mexican families remember the loved ones that they have lost over the years. Families create home altars that they adorn with pictures of the deceased family member, flowers, sugar skulls, and other items that relate to the person’s life.
Where to Visit
- Michoacán – Many travelers would agree that Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán is the best place to visit during the Day of the Dead. It is also one of the most popular destinations during the celebration. The main attraction is watching the indigenous Purépecha perform their festival rituals throughout the night.
- Mexico City – In Mexico City, pan de muerto is one of the most popular foods to eat during the celebration. Pan de muerto is shaped like a dome and has an orange taste to it. Families usually eat it at home with hot chocolate. At night in every cemetery, you will encounter families celebrating the lives of the deceased.
- Pomuch – Pomuch is a small village located in the Yucatán. Each year during the Day of the Dead festival, relatives exhume the remains of their deceased loved ones who have been dead for at least three years. The bones are then cleaned and placed in a wooden box which is decorated with an embroidered linen. Take a look at this article to read a firsthand account of what it’s like to visit Pomuch during the festival.
- Oaxaca – Oaxaca is known for its artisanal flair, indigenous roots, and molecular cuisine. During the festival, the city teems with dance troupes and vendors selling candy crucifixes. Throughout the evening there are numerous processions. You’ll likely see many women dressed up as Catrina, a famous icon of the festival.
If you haven’t already booked your trip, then you might have some trouble finding a hotel this year. The Day of the Dead is a very popular festival, so some proper planning is required. You should also brush up on your Spanish before you visit—especially if you plan to travel to rural towns. When visiting cemeteries remember to be respectful of the families you encounter. While many locals are happy to speak with strangers about their deceased loved ones, you should still use your common sense and recognize that some families will prefer to not be bothered.