In 2008, UNESCO recognized the importance of Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) by adding the holiday to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. As practiced by the indigenous communities of Mexico, el Día de los Muertos commemorates the transitory return to Earth of deceased relatives and loved ones.
The festivities take place each year at the end of October to the beginning of November. From quiet candlelit cemeteries to experience the ancestral tradition to big parades and concerts, there are many intriguing things to do for Day of the Dead.
Here are some ways to celebrate this festive holiday throughout Mexico including a Dia de Los Muertos women-only group trip in Mexico City to a special Dia de Los Muertos tarot card reading dinner in San Miguel de Allende and more. And if you can’t make the festivities this year, it’s never too early to plan ahead for 2020!
The Day of the Dead festivities begin in Mexico City on the Saturday before Dia de Los Muertos as the parade rolls through the capital. The night of October 31st kicks off a 3-day string of Day of the Dead activities in Mexico City.
Though you can catch the party in Zocalo, you’ll find a far more authentic celebration southeast of the city center, in San Andrew Mixquic. The ex-convent and church bedecks its main cemetery with thousands of candles and marigolds, and midnight processions bring thousands of capitalinos to the altar-lined streets. The Day of the Dead parade on November 2nd in Mexico City is actually a relatively new tradition, as it began in 2016. The parade is said to have been inspired by the 2015 James Bond film, Spectre. In the movie, the opening scene shows Daniel Craig as James Bond at a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City.
Where to Stay
Stay in the beloved Colonia Roma neighborhood at Ignacia Guest House, a trendy eco-friendly bed and breakfast. Featuring just five unique suites, the hotel’s namesake is Ignacia, the housekeeper who took care of this 1913 colonial mansion for more than 70 years. In celebration of Dia de Los Muertos, the chef will bake the traditional holiday bread for breakfast that week – Pan de Muertos or “bread of the dead”, a slightly sweet, brioche-like bread covered with orange blossom water and anise seeds. A beautiful marigold altar will be put up in honor of Ignacia.
A “calaverita” (skull shaped candy) will be waiting for guests in their suites who check-in on October 31s, November 1st and 2nd. Guests can enjoy calabaza en tacha, a typical Dia de los Muertos candied pumpkin. For the daily cocktail hour in the garden, the chef will create cocktails with the flavors of this festive holiday, including anise and pumpkin.
What to Eat
Foodies will love Eat Like a Local Mexico City’s special Dia de Los Muertos food tour where founder and sustainable tourism expert Rocio Vazquez Landeta shares her personal approach to the celebration. Start the day with coffee, sweet bread, and street tacos with a visit to the flower market to enjoy delicious food while shopping for candy skulls, flowers, candles, colorful papers, and more. Visit Rocio’s home, a late 1800 house in Roma Norte to celebrate with mezcal cocktails and snacks while setting up the altar on the rooftop. Sharing childhood memories and the meaning of each item at the altar, Rocio invites guests to join her celebration to honor the dead.
Eat Like a Local’s Immersive Day of the Dead Experience is offered from October 26th through November 1st, 2019. The five-hour tour starts at 10am daily and costs $150USD per person. For more information, visit www.eatlikealocal.com.mx or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to Do
Join Wild Terrains Mexico City Experience and support female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses in Mexico City. Wild Terrains curates women-only small group trips that meet, support and learn about the local female-owned businesses within a destination. Wild Terrains leads an awesome Dia de Los Muertos group trip and they’ve recently announced their 2020 Dia de Los Muertos trip set for October 28-November 1, 2020 and sign-ups are available now.
Focusing on vibrant and culturally rich destinations for the creative-minded, Wild Terrains is the only travel company leading women-only group trips that support female entrepreneurs in Mexico City and Portugal. All trip itineraries include accommodations at female-owned hotels, meals prepared by up-and-coming female chefs, and experiences that connect travelers with local women entrepreneurs, artists, and designers. Wild Terrains’ popular Mexico City itineraries features stays at the super chic Ignacia Guest House, a five-suite boutique hideaway in Colonia Roma, an insider tour of Mexico City’s sprawling street food scene with sustainable tourism expert Rocio Vazquez Landeta with Eat Like a Local and so much more.
San Miguel de Allende
While most towns have at least a few processions for Day of the Dead, San Miguel de Allende hosts the colorful 5-day La Calaca Festival. The main attraction is the annual Catrinas Parade which draws crowds from near and far.
The highlight of the parade is the towering Catrina and Catrine puppets. But it doesn’t stop there. Professional makeup artists are plentiful and can be hired beforehand to paint your face into a beautiful skull, and feel free to get decked out from head to toe as there will be a costume contest. La Calaca Festival is a participatory arts festival that brings together interactive arts installations, local businesses, individuals and arts organizations and visitors from Mexico and around the world come together to witness art and creativity inspired by Dia de Los Muertos in a town rich in culture, heritage and art.
Where to Stay
Opened in April 2019, Casa Delphine is one of San Miguel de Allende’s newest hotels – a thoughtfully curated five-suite boutique hotel set on a quiet cobblestone street just minutes from the main plaza in the heart of this charming town. Owned and beautifully designed by Los Angeles designer Amanda Keidan, the spacious suites feature cantera fireplaces, hand designed furniture from local artists, warm accents, eclectic textures and colors and balconies that overlook the private courtyard and more. With its great room, dining room, private courtyards and herb garden, Casa Delphine is the perfect setting for private dinners, mezcal and wine tastings, celebrations and guests can take over the entire hotel for bigger events.
For Dia de Los Muertos, Casa Delphine is hosting a special tarot card reading dinner themed “As You Were”. On October 29th at 7pm, come dressed as you were in a past life for a four-course dinner, delicious themed starter with cocktails and wine and mini-reading by tarot card historian Miguel Canseco.
An altar for deceased relatives of staff and guests will be displayed at the hotel and a make-up artist will offer Calaca make-up for guests on Saturday as part of the festivities.