At least after the James Bond movie "Specter" hit theaters, Dia de los Muertos was well known, as the opening scene takes place at the Day of the Dead in Mexico City. But what are the customs, traditions and stories behind this day? Which Mexican city is the best place to experience it? We enlighten you about Halloween in Mexico!
Halloween vs. Dia de los Muertos (Halloween in Mexico)
Halloween is traditionally considered a sinister night of fright and mischief. People believed it was the only night of the year when witches and ghosts haunted the earth in the flesh. In our country, young and old alike celebrate the 31st of December. October Halloween parties where scary faces are carved into pumpkins. Witches, devils, skeletons and ghosts walk the streets, children knock on doors and then they ask "trick or treat?". The day after, people go to the cemetery to commemorate the deceased.
In Mexico it looks completely different. Although the theme here is also death, but the Mexicans celebrate these days a happy festival, because they are happy to reunite with the deceased. According to ancient Mexican beliefs, the dead come to visit from the afterlife once a year. With decorated streets, colorful costumes, great makeup, music, food and dance, they remember the deceased and celebrate life. This festivity is so unique that in 2003 UNESCO declared Dia de los Muertos a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
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The course of Halloween in Mexico
Already days before the families start with the decoration of the colorful "Ofrendas". These are altars that are placed in the houses, on the street or on public buildings and are filled with numerous offerings. In addition to photos of the deceased, there are flowers, treats such as sugar skulls ("Calaveras de Dulce"), the traditional sweet bread of the dead ("Pan de Muerto"), skeletons and coffins made of marzipan and incense. Of course, the drinks may not be missing, which should quench the thirst of the dead after the long journey from the afterlife. Enjoy a delicious drink with your Mexico travel partner.
The streets and houses are decorated with "Papel Picado" (paper cutouts) and the way from the cemetery to the altars with orange-yellow flowers ("Cempasúchil"). These are meant to serve as signposts, as the orange-yellow color represents the light of the sun's rays, which is said to attract and guide the souls of the dead. Processions, concerts and other festivities take place in the streets. Many Mexican women dress up as the famous skeleton lady "La Catrina," which has become a classic symbol of "Dia de los Muertos".
On the night of 31. Octobers the souls of the deceased children (Angelitos), are received in. As soon as the sun rises on 2. As November sets, families gather at the graves in the cemetery, bringing gifts to the deceased and celebrating the end of the "Day of the Dead" there. There is plenty of food and drink, singing, dancing and laughing together. So anything but a sad farewell party!
The best places in Mexico to experience the Dia de los Muertos
The Day of the Dead is celebrated in all cities in Mexico. Many villages have of course developed their own traditions. In Tuxtepec, in the state of Oaxaca, for example, the altars are also decorated with carpets made of sawdust. These rugs are decorated with colorful religious and floral motifs. Every year in the marketplace of Tuxtepec there is a competition for the most magnificent sawdust carpet.
Otherwise, the city of Oaxaca is considered the cultural capital of Mexico and one of the best places to celebrate Dia de los Muertos!
More cool destinations, tips and info can be found in our blogs. We introduce you to a few of them here:
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