Mexico is known across the globe for its vibrant and colorful holidays. Here, even death itself takes on a joyful vibe every year on El Dia de los Muertos (“The Day of the Dead”). Held on November 1 and 2, this holiday celebrates loved ones who have passed on with altars to the deceased called ofrendas and an annual visit to grave sites.
Since Day of the Dead falls so close to Halloween, the two holidays are often combined here in Cancun. Children roam neighborhoods trick-or-treating with parents and friends, while the streets fill up with images of La Catrina, an elegant lady skeleton symbolizing Day of the Dead.
One of the many Catrinas I found in Cancun’s Parque Las Palapas tonight
Tonight was an interesting one for Jorge and me. We had several groups of trick-or-treaters stop by, and we gave them some classic Mexican candies. (Jorge’s enjoying the leftovers as I write this.) Then we took a stroll around Parque Las Palapas, which had lots of family activities, people in costume, and a show with colorful Mexican dances.
My best friend Viri had an ofrenda for her brother and grandfather set up at her home, and her parents were kind enough to let me take some pictures. It has many of the classic ofrenda elements, with incense, marigolds (Flor de Muerto), pan de muerto, candles to guide the way of the deceased, sugar skulls (calaveras) and some of their favorite food and drinks from when they were living.
I always feel like Day of the Dead is a fascinating mix of intimate family memories and vivid social traditions, bringing together families and communities alike. This year in Cancun was no different.
“Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) is one of the biggest holidays in Mexico, falling on November 2. Mixing in with Halloween traditions from its northern neighbor, Mexico’s Day of the Dead traditions offer a surreal combination of vibrant color, sadness, respect, comedy and culture, all in honor of loved ones who have passed away.
Even though many locals accuse the young city of Cancun as devoid of culture, I beg to differ. Even though most of our population comes from all over Mexico and the world, you’ll still find each Mexican family’s own version of a Day of the Dead altar. A few days prior to November 2, Mexican families begin to set up altars in their homes to honor the deceased.
Traditional Day of the Dead altar decor usually includes the following:
Calaveritas (small decorative skulls made of sugar)
Papel picado, colorful sheets of paper with shapes cut out
Photos of the deceased
Pan de muerto, a traditional loaf of sweet bread used only at this time of year
Food and drinks that the deceased enjoyed when they were alive
As the cold weather begins to set in (NOOO!), Cancun will start to make their altar purchases over the next week or so. Hopefully I’ll be able to document some of my friend’s family altars. For now, I’ll leave you with some photos from last year’s Day of the Dead in Cancun: