November 2nd

Day of the Dead (Mexico) -

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The annual observance of Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos as it is commonly referred to in Spanish, is a deeply-rooted cultural event throughout Mexico, taking place from October 31st to November 2nd. Despite dealing with the theme of death, this festival does not cast a gloomy shadow but instead is a vibrant and lively celebration used to remember and pay tribute to loved ones who have passed on.

Showcasing a fusion of timeless Aztec customs and Catholic faith, this observance characterized by a variety of vivid ceremonies, dances, displays, and tributes. This festival encapsulates Mexico’s distinctive approach towards death — considering it a natural part of life’s journey rather than an end to be feared.

History of Day of the Dead (Mexico)

The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos as it’s called in Spanish, is a time-honored tradition deeply ingrained in the cultures of Mexico and Mexican-Americans. This holiday provides a medium for families to remember and honor their deceased relatives in a celebratory rather than mournful way. This tradition harks back to eras even before the Spanish colonization of Mexico.

The historical roots of this tradition trace back to the indigenous communities, including the Aztecs and Maya, who held unique beliefs regarding death and afterlife. To mourn the dead was considered disrespectful in these cultures, who instead chose to remember and celebrate the departed’s life.

Our current practices related to the Day of the Dead can be traced back to an Aztec festival in honor of the goddess Mictecacihuatl, also known as the “Lady of the Dead.” Initially, this commemoration was observed during the summer and lasted a month. However, the Spanish colonizers altered this timeline to align with their own religious observances (All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day), in a bid to assimilate indigenous people into Christianity.

Hence, the Day of the Dead that we observe today is a fusion of indigenous, Christian, and contemporary traditions. The holiday invites families to come together and reminisce about their loved ones who have passed away. Families build home altars called “ofrendas,” adorned with photographs, favorite foods, and personal items that were significant to those who have departed. Typical decorations also include marigold flowers, sugar skulls, and candles, and special festive foods like pan de muerto, a type of sweet bread, and mole are served.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Day of the Dead was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008. Today, this celebration extends beyond Mexico, as cultures worldwide have adopted their unique variations and interpretations of it.

Day of the Dead (Mexico) Timeline

Origins of Day of the Dead

The roots of the Day of the Dead, are traced back to the indigenous peoples in Mexico such as the Aztecs, who had rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors.

Spanish Conquest

With the Spanish conquest of Mexico, many native customs were intertwined with Christian customs introduced by the conquistadors.

Day of the Dead during Mexican Revolution

During the Mexican Revolution, politicized caricaturist José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera.

Introduction of La Catrina

Diego Rivera painted his mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central, which included what's considered the most famous depiction of La Catrina.

UNESCO Recognition

The Day of the Dead tradition was added to UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Modern Day Celebrations

Today, Day of the Dead is celebrated annually from October 31st to November 2nd.

Ideas to Celebrate Day of the Dead (Mexico)

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Create an Offrenda

Build an offrenda (altar) at home. This traditional Mexican altar is a way to honor and celebrate the memories of ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. Include pictures of your loved ones, their favorite food and drinks, and other items they loved in life, as well as traditional items like marigolds, sugar skulls, and paper marigolds.

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Sugar Skull Decorating

Bake or buy sugar skulls and spend the day decorating them with bright icing, sequins, foil, and other materials. This is a fun and creative activity for the family which symbolizes death and rebirth.

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Enjoy Traditional Food

Cook and enjoy traditional meals like Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead bread), tamales, or mole. You can even place some of these food items on your altar.

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Candlelight Vigil

Organize a candlelight vigil at night to remember your loved ones. Light candles on your offrenda or at a designated spot and share favorite memories or stories about your departed loved ones.

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Marigold Decorations

Marigolds, or 'flowers of the dead', are often used in Day of the Dead celebrations. Use these vibrant orange flowers to decorate your home and altar.

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Watch Cultural Movies

Watch films that celebrate Day of the Dead, such as Coco, The Book of Life, or Day of the Dead animations. This activity can help provide deeper insight into the holiday's significance and traditions.

7 Interesting Facts About Day of the Dead (Mexico)


Origin of the Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who believed mourning the dead was disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was considered a natural phase of life's continuous cycle, not the end of life itself.


Día de los Muertos Altars

Altars, known as ofrendas, are built in homes and cemeteries. These aren’t altars for worshipping; rather, they’re meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living. They’re laden with offerings—water to quench thirst after the long journey, food, family photos, and a candle for each dead relative.


Marigold: The Flower of the Dead

The marigold, and flowers in general, are believed to attract the spirits. Guiding them back to their altars using their vibrant colors and heavy scent, the marigold also known as cempasúchil is often used to decorate the gravestones and ofrendas.


La Calavera Catrina

La Calavera Catrina, or 'Elegant Skull', is one of the most popular symbols of the Day of the Dead. This character was created by Mexican lithographer and illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913)


Day of the Dead Bread

Pan de Muerto, or 'Bread of the Dead', is a sweet roll traditionally baked for the Day of the Dead. The roll usually has bone-shaped pieces on it, symbolizing the deceased.


UNESCO Recognition

In 2008, UNESCO recognised the importance of Día de los Muertos by adding the holiday to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


La Catrina Parade

There is a big parade for Day of the Dead in Mexico City. Although parades were not a traditional part of the holiday, the James Bond film Specter's depiction of a massive Day of the Dead parade led city authorities to organize the event.

Day of the Dead (Mexico) FAQs

Next Day of the Dead (Mexico) Dates

Year Date Day
2023 November 2nd Thursday
2024 November 2nd Saturday
2025 November 2nd Sunday
2026 November 2nd Monday
2027 November 2nd Tuesday
What is the pattern? Every November 2nd

Day of the Dead (Mexico) Word Search

  • Altar
  • Spirits
  • Cempasuchil
  • Ofrenda
  • Calavera
  • Ancestors