Day of the dead in Mexico

dia de muertos, Oaxaca

Day of the Dead in Mexico is a very special holiday. Mexicans strongly believe that their deceased family comes back to them on that day. That’s why there is so much celebration around the country. It is a happy holiday when families get together to eat, drink, play music, and celebrate the life of their ancestors. It’s truly beautiful and here is what they do.

Did you see the animated movie Coco? Or the big parade at the beginning of the James Bond movie Spectre? It’s a bit like that. Actually, funny story, Mexico City didn’t used to throw this kind of huge parades until the movie came out. Only after that, they arranged for it to happen for the sake of thousands of tourists that visit the city at that time.


Different regions have a very different approach to this and hold different traditions. One thing is very common, it’s the altar, called ofrenda. Families decorate beautiful altars with flowers (flor de Muerto), fruit, food and of course a picture of the deceased. If the deceased liked to smoke and to drink Coca-Cola, we will find it on the altar. After all they come back only once a year, they deserve a bit of fun.

Ofrenda for the Day of the Dead, Mexico
Altar for Dia de Muertos

People also go to the graves to dress them with colorful flowers and prepare them for the rest of the family to join.

Graveyard, Day of the dead, Mexico
Grave in Xoxo, Oaxaca

In Oaxaca, throughout the entire week there will be concerts, art shows, the altar competition in the hotels, long parades with music, local dresses, and candy. If you decide to spend this holiday in Oaxaca City, you can learn about the different traditions throughout the region. Such as what do people put on the ofrenda, what kind of food do they eat, instruments they play on that occasion, songs they sing… and so much more.

Day of the dead, Mexico
Candles lit for the Day of the Dead

Day of the dead

First of all, it’s very important to remember that the Day of the dead is on the 1st of November and not on the 31st of October. Halloween and Dia de Muertos are two different things and the locals will not appreciate it if you confuse the two.

On the day of the dead in Mexico, the cities and villages will be all decorated and ready to receive their missed friends and family. People will spend this time at the graveyards with their families. They will be singing, drinking Mezcal, eating and playing music and of course remembering the dead. Nowadays more and more tourists come to see this event, which makes is less intimate for the families. Although some of them will call you over and share the food and drinks with you. As I already mentioned, Mexicans are just so nice.

skeletons, day of the dead, Mexico

The Parades

Every neighborhood will host at least one. People come dressed up, there is a band, giant skeletons are prepared especially for this occasion. It’s very loud, it’s a lot of fun and there is always a lot to eat. Sometimes people just randomly throw candy at the audience, sometimes they distribute the pan de Muerto – special, sweet bread, only baked for this occasion – and the delicious Mexican Cacao.

Parade, Day of the Dead, Mexico
A Parade for the Day of the Dead, Oaxaca

The face paining

Do not do it on the 31st. It’s on the 1st of November that people can do it and you will see a lot of locals with painted faces. In Oaxaca, there will be tens of stands lining up next to the Cathedral and even more people in lines in order to get their makeup done. The face painting is just a decoration nowadays, but it is believed that in the past Aztecs wore masks representing the skeletons or the dead people themselves.

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