Day of the Dead occurs annually on November 2, following Halloween and All Soul’s Day. The holiday, which was recognized by UNESCO in its Tangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2008, is an important cultural day in Mexico and is also celebrated worldwide by people of Mexican descent.
While “Death” is the main theme of the day, “Dia de los Muertos” revelers demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members and friends with colorful festivities that reaffirm the beauty and joy of life. Throughout Mexico people wear costumes and masks, and celebrate the day with parades and parties to honor their departed loved ones.
The ancient Aztec, Toltec and Nahua peoples of Mexico originated Day of the Dead more than 3,000 years ago. These cultures saw death as another phase of life and believed mourning the dead to be disrespectful. The holiday was reserved to welcome the return of their dead, who temporarily returned to Earth on this day.
Elaborate altars, constructed in residences and cemeteries and adorned with flowers, photographs, and gifts, are an integral part of Dia de los Muertos celebrations. These altars welcome the spirits back to visit with their surviving family members and to offer counsel and guidance to the living.
Oaxaca, Guadalajara, Chiapas and Mexico City offer some of the best Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico today, and San Diego, Los Angeles and San Antonio also offer colorful and exciting events on this day in observance of this important Mexican cultural holiday.