Day of the Dead “Dia de Muertos”


As a person who loves to celebrate Halloween I had always assumed that the Day of the Dead coincided or was related to Halloween somehow. Perhaps it was the beautifully decorated skulls and masks that linked the two together for me, or the decorated graves and rituals that seemed so similar. Living in Mexico I have since discovered that there is no real link between the two celebrations, so I set out to learn more about the Day of the Dead.

A little bit of history about this Celebration

I researched this tradition and found out that more than 500 years ago the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in central Mexico and came upon natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. Of course this seemed barbaric, even sacrilegious to the Catholic faith so they tried to eradicate this tradition without success. The Aztecs and other indigenous cultures had been practicing this ritual of celebration for thousands of years. Dia de Muertos comes from a belief that death is a continuation of life and should be embraced not feared.The tradition merged with Catholic theology while maintaining some of the original principles including the main symbol of the skull which is associated with the Day of the Dead.

Skull symbols are everywhere!

calicasIn recent years this symbol has become highly recognized. There are pictures, sculptures, candles, tattoos and even a t shirt store in Playa del Carmen. Truth be told, I have a beautiful picture of this symbol hanging on my wall!

Wooden skull masks are called calacas, which can be worn to dance in honor of the deceased or placed on graves and alters dedicated to the dead.  You will also see sugar skulls in local stores, these are eaten in memory of a loved one by a relative or friend of the deceased. I have seen the sugar skulls at DAC, and you can find the candles and masks for sale almost everywhere in Playa del Carmen.­­

dia-de-muertosOriginally, the ritual lasted for one month where people believed that their deceased relatives came back to join them. Now el Dia de Muertos is typically celebrated November 1st to 2nd in various forms. Many celebrate by visiting the cemetery where their loved ones are buried and decorate it with candles, marigold flowers and depending on the age of the deceased toys or tequila.

 What to do to Celebrate the Day of the Dead in the Mayan Riviera?

I recommend the Xcaret Park for their Festival of Life and Death Traditions celebrated Oct. 30-Nov 2nd. During this UNESCO award winning event you will experience the Hanal Pixan ritual which is food for the souls, cuisine of the region, arts, crafts, theater, dance and gala concerts in celebration of the deceased.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Xcaret and the 11th year for the Festival of Life and Death Traditions. So as a special celebration the Mexican state of Puebla will enhance the events with their rituals and customs. Contact us for details and pricing if you would like to attend this amazing festival or to book your own Day of the Dead party complete with catering.

Written by Susan deLima