There’s a lot going on in Oaxaca this week as the city prepares for the annual Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead celebrations.
Based on the belief that each November the souls of the dead return to earth to visit their families, Dia de Muertos is one of the most important festivals of the year. The procession of souls begins on the 1st of November with ‘Dia de los Angelitos’, when the souls of children return and continues on the 2nd, ‘Dia de los Muertos’, when the souls of adults make their journey.
Families often start their preparations weeks earlier, preparing food and gathering ofrendas (offerings) for the traditional altars that are used to both guide and welcome the souls home. Found in homes, business, schools and cemeteries the altars include photos and offerings such as food (pan de muertos, mole, fruit and chocolate), mezcal, skulls, candles and flowers – Marigolds or Cempasuchil are most common, brilliant oranges, yellows and purples.
During this time it’s customary for families to visit the cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves and often they will spend the night there remembering the lives of those that have died. While sometimes solemn, it is a celebration of life that will often include food, drinks and music.
One of the best places to experience this is the town of Xoxocotlan, just outside of Oaxaca. There are two cemeteries in Xoxo (pronounced Hoho) – a small, older one with a solemn feel, and the large main cemetery. Both are worth a visit but you’ll find the biggest celebrations in the main cemetery.
To find out what is happening each day check our events pages. Here are a few of the highlights:
* Exhibition of ‘tapetes de arena’ in the Plaza de la Danza. The exhibition opens at 6pm and there will be a free concert at 9pm.
* A traditional comparse (parade) through the city including the dance of the devils, stilt walkers and live band music. Expect to see everyone in costumes (you should definitely join in). Starts at 6pm.
* This is the night to visit the cemeteries in Xoxocotlan.
Thursday 31st and Friday 1st
* Make sure you visit the Pantheon de San Miguel on one of these nights to see the exhibition of traditional altars (there’s a competition for the best one), the illumination of the tombs with over 2000 candles, and to try some of the delicious pan de muertos and hot chocolate. On the evening of the 31st there will also be music and theatre. The pantheon is open from 10am until midnight and the candles will be lit from 8pm onwards.
* A traditional comparse (parade) de muertos through the streets of Oaxaca. Starts at 5pm.
* Visit the Matria Jardin Arterapeutico to see their Ofrenda de Muertos and the new installations for November. This was amazing last year. Starts at 6pm.
* At 7pm there will be a Gran Comparsa Canina – a Day of the Dead parade for dogs. Meet at Santo Domingo.