A party in a graveyard: How to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico

01 November 2016  
Михаил Ефимкин

Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is a bright and original holiday celebrated in Mexico. The people of this country do not grieve over the dead as they’re well and safe in their afterlife. Once a year, the dead come back to our living world to communicate with their loved ones. Is this not a reason to celebrate? Or better yet, arrange a carnival? Of course it is! To compare prices and buy cheap flights to Mexico, use our service airinme.com.

Communication with ancestors

The Day of the Dead has been celebrated for centuries and goes very deep into Mexican culture. Everything started with the Goddess of the Underworld - Mictecacihuatl. People were honouring her when celebrating the lives of their ancestors.

Initially, Aztecs celebrated for almost three weeks in July and August. Mexicans nowadays spend 2 days celebrating as the dates clashed with the Catholic All Saints Day. Therefore, the Day of the Dead is celebrated on 1st and 2nd November - the first day is spent honouring adults the second is kids. Despite the coincidence of this holiday being so close to Halloween, they’re nothing alike. Halloween is the tradition Europeans celebrate when evil spirits rise from hell to scare people. The Mexican Day of the Dead on the other hand, is when Native people welcome guests to their homes and remember their loved ones and their memories together.

Day of the Dead traditions vary. For example, the southern state of Chiapas is known for its parades and street celebrations. The Valley of Mexico have focused on the decoration of altars in lomah. Soul festivals are undoubtedly a Southern Mexican tradition where indigenous cultures are strong. In some areas, the Day of the Dead is celebrated on a scale like Christmas!

Waiting for the holiday

Preparations for Day of the Dead begin long before it starts. Some families make arrangements throughout the whole year by collecting dead things and thinking up the best ways of remembrance. The day before, most streets unfold markets where you can buy all the major decorations of the upcoming celebration. You can buy candles in the form of skulls and coffins, skeleton souvenirs, dolls and much more - it is believed to help the dead find their way home.

Mexicans build altars for the dead, they’re decorated with flowers, fruit, treats and spread with loved valuables. Two mandatory altar items are water and bread of the dead. They are designed to help guests from the underworld to regain strength after a difficult journey. Sometimes they leave a trail of bread around the house.

Party in the graveyard

Residents of villages and small towns like to gather at night in the graveyard. The entire city goes there. By graves, people drink bottled mescal (agave brew), eat snacks and tell stories from the life of the departed. Many musicians get paid to sing the favorite songs of the dead.

In larger cities carnivals take place. The brightest on the scale takes place in Oaxaca de Juarez in Southern Mexico. Skeletons are painted on sculptures and on people - all mixed so sometimes people cannot distinguish between dead or alive. So the revived spirit will be easily lost in this crowd.

Men, women and children paint their faces with makeup turning themselves into skulls. Many women dress up like Catrina and men dress like “Catrín” - the male version of Catrina. The idea of the beautiful cheerful skeleton was invented in 1913 by the artist José Guadalupe Posada. The purpose was that everyone dressed in flowered hats which suggests the rich, famous and fashionable are as mortal as everyone else.