Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

Halloween, for some, serves as the penultimate holiday for sweets, humor, and horror, but for Mexican culture, the two days following it hold unique significance. Considered national holidays in Mexico, November 1st and 2nd are reserved for the honoring of the deceased and celebration of life. Originally the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, these days are now treated as a blend of traditional Aztec beliefs and Catholicism that feature lively festivals, parties, parades, elaborate costumes, food, drink, and creative decorations, all of which work together to compose the Day of the Dead.

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While the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, might inspire fear, it is actually a day of humor, joy, and remembrance that acknowledges the passing of friends and loved ones as an important part of life. A key element of the festival are the altars to the deceased, usually placed before their graves with offrendras (offerings) of food, flowers (usually marigolds), photos, personal memorabilia, and calavera (sugar skulls) and calacas (skeletons) that depict the dead with lively smiles and fancy clothing.

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Skeletons play an important part in the holiday, considered one of the main symbols of the festival. While Halloween treats them as symbols of horror, Dia de los Muertos views the dead and their skeletons as members of the festivities who deserve to partake in the holiday. Think more Jack Skellington than spooky ghosts. Thus, participants are encouraged to wear white and black face paint reminiscent of skulls and colorful costumes to embody the aura of the lively dead.

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Though the holiday is now celebrated around the world, there are no Dia de Los Muertos festivals like those celebrated in Mexico itself. Mexico City, Merida, Rivera May and Oaxaca are all rife in Mexican culture, tradition, and history, making them perfect destinations to take part in this amazing holiday. We highly suggest experience Dia de Los Muertos with a week in Oaxaco!

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John Gray

A poet by heart and an editor by trade, I have traveled across the world in pursuit of my studies and to criss-cross destinations off my bucket list. While a student at the University of Iowa, I traveled to Cuba, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, where I lived for 6 months. I am currently planning a return trip to see the Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia.

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