Going to Mexico to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) was something we always wanted to do, and when we spontaneously found ourselves in Mexico two years ago we knew we would be in for a treat. But then of course, our visa expired just before the festivities. Instead we found ourselves in Belize during the Day of Dead celebrations.
However, last year we got another chance. After ending our Nomads’ Vacation in Florida early and finding cheap flights to Guatemala we knew that no matter what, we would be in Oaxaca during the Day of the Dead. No ifs, or buts about it.
And we did!
From sweet candy skulls to giant parades, Oaxaca City did not let us down. The Day of the Dead was loud, crowded, colorful, and one for the books. So much so that we wanted to share the holiday with you through pictures instead of my long, fun, and sometimes boring stories…
All over Oaxaca, people were painting their faces and getting ready for the Day of the Dead celebration.
Colorful altars were being erected to not only commemorate the dead but also to bring them back to life.
Breads like Pan de Muertos …
… sugar and chocolate skulls …
… and skeleton statues depicting La Catrina were being sold on every corner.
But at night fall the festivities really began. Bands came marching down the streets with loud music and people dressed in costumes behind them. Before we knew it we found ourselves in the middle of it all …
… joining in on all the craziness.
The streets where flooded with people, music and painted faces …
… and no man…
… no band…
… were left behind. The Day of the Dead is celebrated by all.
And to make sure the celebration never ends, you will find food everywhere.
From tacos to crepes and even pancakes (yup, this celebration goes into the wee hours so they sell breakfast too) you will not go hungry or thirsty.
But there comes a time when the music is lowered and families go to the graveyards where they clean and decorate the tombs of their love ones and …
… gather around to share stories about the deceased – remembering their time on earth.
Candles are lit …
… old flowers are replaced with new ones …
… and travelers like myself come to celebrate and appreciate the honoring of the dead through the Day of the Dead festivities.
More Information on the Day of the Dead Celebration
Though the Day of the Dead may seem like it is just about partying and painting faces, it is actually more than that. The Day of the Dead is a very important holiday in Mexico to remember and honor the dead. Their lives are celebrated rather than mourned through joyful festivities, erecting alters, decorating graveyards with lit candles and fresh marigold flowers, sharing stories, and creating sand tapestries.
When is the Day of the Dead Celebrated?
The holiday is celebrated in conjunction to the Catholic holidays, All Saints Day and All Souls Day on November 1st and November 2nd of each year. Though the official Day of the Dead is November 2nd, festivities start well before and after the second, with most events and festivities taking place between October 31st and November 2nd.
Tips for Experiencing the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca
- Don’t pay for a guided tour. You don’t need an expensive tour to truly experience the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City. You can do everything yourself. Fliers about parades and different events are posted everywhere in town. Also, buses and taxis are readily available for things outside the city.
- By walking around town, especially after night fall you will find some kind of Day of the Dead event happening. It’s actually impossible to miss the celebration because it is simply everywhere. If you are worried about missing the festivities just hang out around the Zocolo or Plaza de Santo Domingo.
- It’s physically impossible to do everything or attend every parade or event. Pick your poison or accidentally find it and enjoy it.
- Rest and sleep during the day and rise like a vampire at night to enjoy all the parades.
- Show some respect and ask people before taking pictures, especially at the cemetery.
Must Do or Visit During the Day of the Day Celebration
- Hang around the city center also known as the Zocolo.
- Go to the markets to eat one of the seven moles.
- Visit Plaza de Santo Domingo. Something is always going on here from costume competitions to an open air Day of the Dead market.
- On November 1st visit the Pantelon de General Cemetery.
- On November 2nd visit Plaza de la Danza for sand tapestries.
- Get your face painted and join in on the festivities.
Last but not least. Enjoy the Day of the Dead Celebrations!!!