Three Colorful Day Of The Dead Celebrations In Mexico

Day-Of-The-DeadSince very young we are taught to embrace life, enjoy it and live under a certain set of values to enrich and worship life, we learn that dead is something we do not want thought it is inevitable and that when someone passes away we should be sad. Dead is something we cannot escape but it doesn´t mean it has to be all gloomy and that´s pretty much what the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico are all about.

The cult of death has existed in all of the indigenous cultures that lived long before the spanish arrival and was often celebrated through the month of September (colliding with the Fall equinox) but once the spaniards and catholicism arrived to these lands they had to embrace some of these rituals but “rescheduled” them to fit their own calendar.

That´s why what once were pagan celebrations often happen around a Christian holiday and the Day of the Dead celebration is not an exeption but what makes this day so special is the faith that surounds all the preparations. On these couple of days – November 1st and 2nd – most houses and business dress up with marigold flowers, orange and purple cutout banners, water, tequila, fruits, sugar skulls and candles placed in altars honoring the loved ones who have passed.

There´s another interesting character there known as Catrina, an elegand skelleton lady who represents death. People of all ages dress up as catrinas to go out and about, children as for treats and they also write and exchange “Calaveritas” which are short and funny poems about life and death. The festivities vary from region to region but they all share the same joy and hopeful feeling about it, here´s an example:

Cancun & Riviera Maya

Both Cancun and Riviera Maya´s proximity make it hard to choose one place over the other, specially because among the MUST things to do in Cancun is to attend the Life and Death Festival which has been held for the last 10 years in the nearby echological park Xcaret  where locals and visitors are able to enjoy for 3 days major artistic performances, bringing the ancient mayan traditions and ceremonies back to life and often having one or two of other mexican states as guests to showcase their singular culture and approach on this festivity.

Mexico City

IMG_0097This huge city dresses up entirely with cempasuchitl flowers (marigold), to walk around the city´s historical center is a delight to the sight and ears, there are parades, impressive altars and services in its churches and Catrinas everywhere. The celebrations in the UNESCO® Heritage Site of Xochimilco, located in the southern end of Mexico City is quite impressive; the famous Trajinera boats are decorated with flowers and candles and locals take over the cemetery with music, flowers, dances and offerings.

Puerto Vallarta

The celebrations for the Day of the Dead here are a little bit more low key thought it is still beautiful. The city sponsors an altar competition that involves the majority of the schools in the area as well as other government organizations. Just walking around and sightseeing will get you into the mood.

If you have the chance to visit Mexico during the last days of October and first week of November you are going to live one of the most fun and beautiful experiences of your life and you will most definitely start to look at life and death from a more joyful perspective.

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