Day of the Dead: The Unique Mexican Holiday
Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos or Día de Los Muertos) is the quintessential Mexican holiday that reunites the living with the dead and the departed. It is primarily a family tradition observed for thousands of years, with its roots dating back to the ancient Aztec culture.
In Aztec culture, death was believed to be transitory, and the souls of the departed ones could come to visit the living.
Although the basic premise of the festival remains the same, its nature has altered since the arrival of the Spanish settlers in the 16th century. Nowadays, many see the Day of the Dead celebration as a curious blend of Mexican mysticism and Catholic traditions.
Of late, the holiday has also become well-known worldwide, and tourists from all over the world flock to many Mexican cities and towns at the time of the holiday to witness this centuries-old colorful tradition from close quarters.
Royal Holiday Vacation Club can help you and your family travel to see this wonderful tradition yourself.
How Is the Day of the Dead Celebrated?
Royal Holiday Vacation Club is a Mexico-based company that loves helping others celebrate the Day of the Dead.
Families create altars or ofrendas (lit. offerings) inside the homes for their dear departed ones. Ofrendas are created for relatives who have passed away relatively recently and for family ancestors.
The photographs of the departed are placed squarely at the center of the altars, then filled with candles, a glass of water, ashes, or dirt placed on a small decorative bowl, and elaborately designed tissue papers.
These four items are believed to represent the four elements: fire, water, earth, and air. Other staple items that find their way into the ofrenda include favorite drinks and foods of the dead person being honored, Calaveras or skulls (typically made of sugar, chocolate, etc.) as well as the Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), a variation of the traditional Mexican pastry.
The whole idea of preparing the ofrenda stems from the belief that during the Day of the Dead, the departed loved ones will make their journey back to the earth and share a meal with their family members just as they did when they were alive.
Although different catholic traditions have found their way into the celebration, the central idea of this unique holiday remains the same: exchanging mourning for celebration.
This idea is amply reflected in the ubiquitous skulls in the festivity. Most of these skulls are painted with a smile as if to say that even death can be laughed at when one accepts that life and death are part of the same process in the cycle of human life.
When Is the Day of the Dead?
The Day of the Dead celebration typically lasts for two days, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. Nov. 1, which is also All Saint’s Day in the catholic tradition, honors the spirits of the dead children and is known as Dia de Los Angelitos.
The ofrendas are created for the departed souls of the little ones and are filled with the dead child’s favorite toys, snacks, candies, etc.
At midnight on Nov. 2, families begin celebrating the lives of the departed adults. As mentioned, the unique thing about this holiday that honors the dead souls is that in place of mourning, the night becomes filled with laughter and an all-around merry spirit of joie-de-vivre.
The doors of the houses are opened wide, and families come together to reminisce about their departed ones. They will also play games and dance together to the tune of the village band.
In some parts of Mexico, all the houses open their doors to strangers, and all visitors are greeted with food and jars of Atole, a traditional Mexican brew.
And the next day, once the sun comes out, is the time of public celebration and the grand finale of Dia de Muertos.
In cities, towns, and villages of the country, people will come out in droves and parade the streets in colorful traditional Mexican costumes but also in striking Calavera-themed costumes (faces painted like skulls with the rest of the body painted with skeletal motifs).
On this last day, many also visit the cemeteries in large numbers and decorate the grave sites of their loved ones with marigold flowers, sugar skulls (with the deceased’s name carved on them), and many other gifts. It is also part of the custom to clean the gravestone and pour water during these visits.
Royal Holiday Vacation Club members can travel to various places in Mexico to experience the wonderful Day of the Dead celebrations.
Witness the Day of the Dead Celebrations in CDMX as a Royal Holiday Vacation Club Member
Although tourists flock to many different parts of Mexico to observe and experience this unique festival first-hand, Mexico City is the best place for witnessing the celebration in its vastly broad scope and full splendor, and Royal Holiday Vacation Club can get you there.
For one thing, one can visit several different places, streets, and cemeteries in this vast metropolis to witness the slight differences in traditions and in the manner the day is celebrated in different parts of the city.
That said, we strongly recommend you pay a visit to Paseo de la Reforma to bathe in the veritable orange and yellow ‘sunlight’ of millions of Mexican marigolds, an indispensable item of the celebration.
Also, if you can find time, visit the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Xochimilco and the Ciudad Universitaria to view some spectacular ‘megaofrendas’ or mega-alters crafted by Mexican artisans.
What is the Best Place to Experience the Day of the Dead in Mexico City?
Although opinions may differ, most people will say that the San Andres mausoleum, situated in the magical district of Mixquic, is the best place to have a stellar authentic experience of the true spirit of the Day of the Dead celebrations and festivities.
During the celebrations, all the tombs in the mausoleum are decorated with waves of marigolds, sugar skulls, decorative tissue papers, and many other trinkets.
As the sun sets on Nov. 2, the place will be filled with lights and live music as dozens and dozens of relatives start paying a visit to the graves of their dear departed ones carrying dishes and offerings in their honor.
So, if you want to witness this year’s Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, take full advantage of your Royal Holiday Vacation Club Membership to have a smooth and safe trip to Mexico City.
As a Royal Holiday Vacation Club member, you can enjoy luxurious accommodation at The Gallery at my Place Condesa or My Place at Santo Domingo.
In addition, you can enjoy many lucrative deals regarding airline fees, city tours, upmarket dining, and more during your visit to Mexico City as a Royal Holiday Vacation Club member.