Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead Face Paint
Day of the Dead Face Paint

The Day of the Dead is a longstanding Mexican holiday that today combines traditional native beliefs with traditional Spanish catholic beliefs. The Day of the Dead celebrates dead family members through a series of events that take place on November 1st and 2nd in Mexico and for many cultures around the world. The Day of the Dead in Mexico features two days of celebrations and festivities.

Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead

Native people in Mexico traditionally marked the Day of the Dead by building shrines or altars to dead family members in their homes. Families would leave gifts for the dead in hopes that the dead would come and visit them. Food, alcohol, and other favorite items of the deceased were left. Parades and special feasts were also organized to celebrate the Mexican Day of the Dead.

When the Spanish began arriving in the 16th century, they were offended by the Day of the Dead, and saw it as a pagan holiday. Most particular, the Spanish were appalled at the Day of the Dead art, which they saw as gruesome and morbid. Since the Spanish had their own holiday for the dead, "All Saints Day", they moved the native Mexican Day of the Dead to its current date, November 1st. Today, the Mexican Day of the Dead combines the Spanish catholic traditions of All Saints Day with the ancient traditions of the native Mexican tribes.

Day of the Dead Traditions
Day of the Dead Traditions

Despite the changes, Day of the Dead art still reflects many of its early roots rather then Halloween. Cakes and other food in the shape of skulls or skeletons are often handed out to children as a lighthearted way to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead art is often thought by outsiders to be morbid, but those who create it see the holiday as a joyful way to celebrate family members who have passed on.

While almost no two cities celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico exactly alike, travelers will find that the holiday is observed nationally. Larger cities, such as Mexico City, will feature huge Mexican Day of the Dead parades that fill the street and shut the city down for one full day or two. The Day of the Dead in Mexico City is one of Mexico's most exciting events, and offers an excellent way to experience the culture and history of the city and its people.

Day of the Dead Procession
Day of the Dead Procession

The Mexican Day of the Dead is also celebrated by visiting the graves of family members. While wealthier families build altars or shrines in the home for the dead, most families simply visit the grave of the dead to leave gifts and decorate it with flowers. In some of the smaller towns in Mexico that retain mainly native beliefs, families will spend all night at a grave, burning candles and keeping the dead company.

Day of the Dead Costume
Day of the Dead Costume

As the Mexican Day of the Dead falls during Mexico's buy season, flights and other travel accommodations will be more expensive than travel during other times of the year. For anyone interesting in experiencing this holiday in Mexico, however, the extra price can be worth it. Depending on where you go, you may want to consider booking a vacation package to fully enjoy this exciting traditional holiday.

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