It’s a three-day festival when tens of thousands of people in Mexico dress up to commemorate, celebrate and remember the dead. While it coincides with Halloween, the two festivals are unrelated, as Mexican Day of the Dead has different significance.
Here is everything you need to know. When is the Mexican Day of the Dead? Mexican Day of the Dead festival starts on October 31 and lasts for three days until 2 November.
November 2 is the Day of the Dead itself. What is Mexico’s Dia de Muertos all about? The Day of the Dead is all about celebrating members of the family and friends who are no longer alive. People put up altars in their houses decorated with photos of the dead along with skulls and marigold flowers – known as cempasuchil, or ‘flower of the dead’. On the altar they keep items that their dead relatives enjoyed: tequila, food they liked, a cigarette constantly burning in an ashtray.
In smaller villages, flower trails are created using the marigold flowers that lead up to the gravestones of the deceased, so that they may follow them to visit the family. People pay tribute to them by telling stories to keep their memory alive as well as visiting their graves, where they might sing all night, accompanied by guitars and, if you like, tequila. Some cemeteries will hold plays, where actors jump from crypt to crypt, or organised musical performances.
Fireworks are often let off int he streets and cemeteries and families will happily dance all night in the streets with their neighbors. The atmosphere is warm and celebratory, not morbid or morose. Mexican culture sees death not as something to fear, and it shows in the way they celebrate the lives of those they’ve lost. It all started thousands of years ago dating right back to the Aztecs when they would worship a goddess called Mictecacihuatl or ‘the Lady of the Dead’.
Day of the Dead food Traditional Dia de los Muertos food varies from region to region, with familiar dishes including pan de muerto (a sweet, sugar-covered glazed bread), sugar skulls and mole (a rich chilli and chocolate sauce for chicken, beans or meat).