MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Leave plastic pumpkins and wizard costumes, synonymous with the American Halloween, behind and embrace the traditional Mexico City “Day of the Dead” (Dia de los Muertos). On the annual holiday, Nov. 1 (Dia de todos los santos) and Nov. 2 (Dia de los fieles difuntos), family and friends gather to remember departed loved ones. The multi-day celebration blends cultural, artistic, epicurean and historical characteristics of Mexico City to create an unrivaled experience.
Vibrant celebrations come alive throughout Mexico City as a corner stone of the holiday. Candles bring to life a peaceful cemetery under the expansive night sky. Mouthwatering Mexican candies beckon taste buds. Resounding music fills the streets as locals take part in somber dances while donning vibrant fall colors. Family alters displaying the deceased pictures and once favorite Earthly possessions – cempoasuchil flowers, sugar cane, tequila, mezcal – are prepared as early as mid-October to honor the departed.
The “City of the Dead,” Mixquic, fuses Catholic and ancient Aztec cultures. Under the curtain of night, visitors attend street festivals where popular pre-hispanic dances ensue, visit the lord and lady of the underworld, witness the decoration of family burial plots, and observe overnight candlelight rituals. Traditional ceremonies can also be found in the city’s center plaza, the Zocalo, and at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM). The Zocalo’s offering of the Claustro de Sor Juana is an annual attraction where residents gather to adorn the main altar in cempoasuchil flowers and play sacred music. Easily accessible to the public is UNAM’s “Dead Offerings of University City,” which holds stage performances, poetry readings and musical concerts by students and professors to commemorate the holiday.
In anticipation of the “Day of the Dead,” a mirage of festivities that are rooted in pre-historic and colonial traditions and infused with contemporary culture, overtake the world’s third largest city. Serenading mariachi musicians on gondolas (trajineras) and the Tianguis del Dia de Muertos, a large “Day of the Dead” market with dancing, flower stalls and local handmade items, are found in Xochimilco, the “Venice of Mexico City.” Venture to the bohemian inspired neighborhood of Coyocan for a colorful holiday market where visitors and residents gather in the historical center dressed in costumes on Nov. 2 to enjoy an evening street festival. American ghosts and goblins hold little significance to the most popular costume of choice, “Catrina,” the iconic female skeleton dressed in an elegant gown, which is the creation of famed artists Jose Guadalupe Posada and Diego Rivera.