Pictures from Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City, Mexico!
Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead
Day of the dead celebrations spans over three nights from October 31 to November 2. It is a time to celebrate those who have passed on, bringing them their favourite food and drink to aid them in their journey into the afterlife.
For me, the celebration was especially poignant. I had received a call a few days prior to inform me that a good friend had passed away. I felt terrible that I couldn’t come back to Canada to attend his funeral, but was thankful for the opportunity that I had to say my goodbyes on Dia de Muertos in a way he would have very much enjoyed.
To celebrate, people build altars called ofrendas in their homes and in the public squares. There are many contests for building the best ofrendas, displayed in many different public spaces. Ofrendas are covered in beautiful orange marigolds, loaves of bread, fruits, drinks and Calaveras, decorated skulls made from clay and sugar. This is where we get much of the famous Day of the Dead imagery, including the sugar skulls that have become a pop icon.
The Dia de Muertos celebration is a unique combination of the Aztec festival to the Goddess Mictecacihuatl and the Catholic holiday of All Saints Day. Originally only celebrated in the south, the festival has caught on in the North of Mexico since the government made it an official holiday in the 1960’s.
Day of the Dead is a happy holiday, for the most part, a celebration of lives and a chance to visit with those who have passed on. It is believed that the souls of the dead will come to visit and listen to prayers on Dia de Muertos. October 31 is when the spirits of deceased children come to visit, and it is a more sombre day. November 1st sees the spirits of adults returning and is a big celebration. Finally, November 2nd is All Souls Day where people attend mass and return to the graveyards in the evening for the final celebration of the festival.
Unusual Day of the Dead Dangers
There is such a demand for things like flowers in the south that they need to be imported from other parts of the country, or even other countries. On November 2nd, while walking through the graveyard with some companions, we noticed signs warning that some of the marigolds that had been imported were infested with mosquitos thought to be carrying dengue fever. We had heard of outbreaks among travellers in the weeks leading up to Day of the Dead, so it was a bit frightening.
Dengue isn’t typically life-threatening unless it turns into dengue hemorrhagic fever, but it will knock you out for a week or so. Mosquito control is constant in Mexico, both privately and by government agencies because of diseases like dengue and now zika. Thankfully, none of my travel companions got sick.
Day of the Dead was one of the most memorable parts of my time in Mexico and touched me in such a personal way because of the loss of my friend. The celebration of lives, rather than the mourning of the loss spoke to me. I plan on returning for the celebration in the future and highly recommend Oaxaca City as the place to be on Dia de Muertos.
Where to Go After Dia De Muertos?
Learn more about the Day of the Dead.
Curious about visiting Oaxaca City? Check out the Wikitravel page.
See other Halloween Photos; Pumpkin Inferno
I came from Mexico City. While in Oaxaca City, I visited Monte Alban. I continued on to Puerto Escondido.