Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) Tours & Trips
Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead, is a multi-day Mexican celebration of the dead—a unique combination of remembrance and carnival.
Mexico's Day of the Dead Celebrations
Mexico City ZocaloThousands of people gather in Mexico City’s historic Zocalo (public square) during the Day of the Dead festivities. Festivities include a parade of people dressed as female skeletons and street parties that last all night long. The centre is fabulously decorated with altars where an extravagant altar contest is held annually. Day of the Dead altars are also the focal point of many prominent museums and public spaces. The most noteworthy museums to visit are the Diego Rivera Museum and the Culture Museum in Coyoacan. Major vigils are held in some of the city’s largest cemeteries including Bosque de Chapultepec and Panteón Civil de Dolores.
San Andrés MixquicOne of the most famous celebrations takes place in San Andrés Mixquic which is located in Mexico City’s southern Distrito Federal. Every year thousands of people visit the San Andrés Mixquic which has very strong indigenous roots and is famous for its display of skeletal dolls, vibrant masks, marigolds and of course for its lively Day of the Dead celebrations. The town becomes spirited and alive with excellent street stalls and food, altars, processions and parties. Prior to the festivities, primary school children build altars with their teachers. These altars are on public display at the Cristobal Colon Primary School near the Church of Saint Andrew.
OaxacaDay of the Dead is a magical time to spend in Oaxaca City in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Many of the dedicated altars you will see in Oaxaca are truly works of art. Organizations and schools across the city hold contests for the best altars each year which are fun displays to check out and get you in the holiday spirit. Leading up to the celebrations, the local markets are packed full of locals shopping for all the necessary decorative items for their altars. If you arrive in Oaxaca early, we recommend visiting 20 de Noviembre Market or the Central de Abastos Market just south of the city center.
Popular Day of the Dead tour packages
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Day of the Dead Facts
When is Day of the Dead in Mexico?
Day of the Dead is a 3-day holiday which spans from October 31st to November 2nd. Family and friends gather to pray, remember, honour and celebrate deceased friends and family, and to support them in their spiritual journey.
How did Day of the Dead start?
Day of the Dead celebrations date back to pre-Hispanic times and arose from the ancient traditions of pre-Columbian cultures some 2,500 years ago. Historically the holiday was celebrated in the summer for an entire month during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar. The celebrations honoured the goddess, Lady of the Dead. Over time the celebration shifted to October and November to coincide with All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
What happens on Day of the Dead?
While one may imagine a holiday dedicated to the dead to be dreary, on the contrary, this holiday is incredibly joyful and colorful. The festivities are filled with dancing, carnivals, incredible costumes, parades, traditional food, beautiful marigold flower displays, iconic altars and cemetery celebrations at the gravesites of loved ones. One of the most prominent traditions is the building of altars called “ofrendas” which honor the deceased.
What are the traditions of Day of the Dead?
One of the most prominent traditions is the building of altars called “ofrendas” which honor the deceased. The altars are decorated with marigolds, sugar skulls, cardboard skeletons, incense, and the favourite treats, food and drinks of the individual that particular altar is dedicated to. Families often then deliver these gifts along with other possessions of the deceased to their gravesite as they celebrate their lives in the cemeteries.
Why is Day of the Dead celebrated?
By the late 20th century, the tradition evolved to honoring deceased children on November 1st and deceased adults on the 2nd. On October 31st, children gather to make children’s altars dedicated to dead children, inviting the spirits of the dead children to come back and visit. November 1st is dedicated to the celebration and visit by adult spirits. November 2nd is All Souls’ Day where families visit and decorate the graves and tombs of relatives.
What are common Day of the Dead symbols?
The icon of Day of the Dead is La Calavera Catrina, translating to Elegant Skill. She originates from a zinc etching by a famous Mexican printmaker named José Guadalupe Posada which was composed in the early 1900s. The image depicts a female skeleton donning a European hat worn by the upper class of that time. Her image is a satirical portrait of the Mexicans who Posada felt were aspiring to adopt the aristocratic European traditions.
Day of the Dead Essentials
- Book accommodations early, hotels and hostels fill up quickly
- Get in the spirit by donning a traditional Day of the Dead costume and/or makeup
- When visiting cemeteries, be respectful of the families honouring the dead
- Ask permission before taking photos in the cemeteries
- Do not travel with non-authorized taxis
- Plan extra time before or after the celebration to explore Mexico