What is Day of the Dead and How is it Celebrated in Mexico?

Day of the Dead – or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish – is celebrated every year on November 2nd across Mexico and other Latin American countries. The annual event is not so much about mourning the loss of loved ones, but rather a celebration of their lives. Many festivities take place during this time throughout Mexico. Amongst popular activities are giving away skull candy (there is a meaning to this, of course), making altars for the dead and spend the day with family. People in Mexico teach their children about the circle of life, making sure there is no fear of death.

Stand the test of time

Day of the Dead altar

The Day of the Dead celebrations have evolved over time. Historically, the festivity is older than Halloween itself and goes back to Mesoamerican times. Spanish conquerors thought the celebration was macabre, to say the least, but it proved to be such an important holiday that it stood the test of time. Today, the celebration engulfs three full days, marrying it with the Americanized version of Halloween.

October 31st – All Hollow’s Eve (Halloween)

November 1st – All Saint’s Day (celebration of children that have passed)

November 2nd – Day of the Dead (celebration of all that have passed)

On November 2nd, many families visit cemeteries, which are usually managed by local churches. Each family is responsible for upkeeping gravesites and bringing fresh flowers, candles or whatever else they want to set up on the grave. During Day of the Dead, many families gather around the graves, bringing the favorite food and drinks of the deceased as a way to help them follow the way back home. Mexicans believe that on this day, the gates of the underworld open to allow saints a day back with their families.


You will find many altars across Mexico celebrating old souls. Oftentimes, families hire mariachi musicians to play upbeat tunes to lighten the mood while they remember their friends and family. Across the country, many events take place. Such is the case of the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City. Thousands of people gather dressed up as catrinas and skulls. Oh, and don’t forget the(marigold). This flower is representative of the holiday and is used in costumes, graves and altars.

Day of the Dead in the Riviera Maya

The Riviera Maya, of course, celebrates this holiday greatly. Many children get the day off school to spend the time with their families. The most popular event is the Festival of Life and Death at Xcaret. Celebrated over a span of four days, the event educates guests about the festivity, its meaning and everything that it conveys (food, drinks, family). In fact, they host a small market within Xcaret where you can see locals cooking traditional Yucatan meals. In fact, the festival is Mexican extravaganza at its finest with many dances, parades and cultural activities throughout.

Retire in Playa del Carmen

For other simpler festivities you can visit the world-famous Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen. Or check out Downtown Cancun to see an array of people strolling in their catrina make up and dresses. On October 31st you can also go hand out candy to children. They will come up to you excited to show off their Halloween costumes and receive candy in exchange. You can sit and relax at one of the many bars or restaurants and people-watch.

The whole Riviera Maya shines with the spirit of Day of the Dead. Decorations hang from windows, walls and stand proud on lawns. You do not want to miss this festival when visiting this paradise corner of the world. And if you really want to immerse in Mexican culture, you might think about retiring in Mexico.