Festivals take shape in many forms.
Whether centered around the onset of a new year, food, music, religion, or ancestry, festivals share a profound commonality in their ability to bring people together, the young and old, spiritual and secular, rich and poor, local and foreign.
Festivals often showcase the traditions, values and practices of a particular community. For the traveler, this sets a unique stage for learning about a place, about people and their particular culture.
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration of life, death, and family. Over two days, Mexico experiences an explosion of color and joy. The holiday, dating back over 3,000 years, was once celebrated by the Olmec, Aztec and Toltec civilizations. Mexicans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds join together to commemorate the lives of deceased family members.
Family is at the center of Mexican culture. Dia de los Muertos brings together the living with the dead. Elaborate altars in homes and cemetries welcome spirits back into the realm of the living. Adorned with photos, candles, flowers, food and water, each is uniquely decorated with love and respect.
In the evenings, communities gather in cemeteries for vigils and further celebrations. The grounds are blanketed with bright orange marigolds, known to be the “flowers of the dead,” guiding souls back into their place of rest once the festivities conclude.
Beginning October 31st, the festival lasts 2 to 3 days, depending on the location. UNESCO world heritage city, Oaxaca, is a perfect place to experience Dia de Los Muertos. It’s colorful architecture, cobblestone streets, baroque churches, and archeological sites are emblematic of the city’s diverse past. Today the city is widely recognized for its impressive culinary scene and it’s Mezcal production.
The best accommodation in town is Quinta Real Oaxaca, set on the grounds of the 16th Century Santa Catalina nunnery. The inner courtyards and thick stone brickwork give the hotel an otherworldly feel. The staff, dressed as monks, wander the halls at night, lighting a candle outside each room. The rooms are grand, with slated wooden ceilings, dark wooden furniture and tiled floors. The walls are dotted with original frescos and many of the early features such as the nuns’ washing fountains remain.
You will gain a taste of Mexican culture through one their oldest and most treasured traditions.