Virtual Travel Blog: Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca
The beginning of November is a magical time in Oaxaca as the locals celebrate Día De Los Muertos - the day of the dead. Between October 31st and November 2nd, it is believed that the souls of the departed return to visit their families. The observance of this holiday highlights the unique relationship Mexicans have with death and their ancestors.
This year, things are looking a bit different. While altars and offerings can still be seen in homes and businesses, the cemeteries will be closed, and none of the usual parades will be allowed, in order to minimize exposure to Covid. While this is usually a bustling time of year for tourism as visitors flock to Oaxaca from all over the globe, most are opting to stay home this year. So we thought we’d bring the celebrations to you! Enjoy this virtual trip to Oaxaca for Día de los Muertos, composed of images from past years’ revelries.
Weeks before the holiday preparations start and you can see the city changing. The city is filled with cempasúchil - or marigolds - which are believed to help guide the dead back to the living. These flowers are known as flor de muerto - the flower of death.
In almost every home you will find altars laden with ofrendas (offerings) to the souls of the departed that come back to visit is a central part of the celebrations. The altars are often large and colorful tributes of small gifts, and pictures of the loved ones. Ofrendas could be flowers, decorated with bright colors, pan de muertos (sweet bread), small gifts, favorite dishes, liquor, sugar skulls, candles, and copal, a burned incense.
In the cemeteries gravesites are cleaned up and decorated with candles, marigold blossoms and the favorite foods and drinks of the departed. Families spend entire nights in the cemeteries, eating, drinking, and reveling with their deceased loved ones. While those who have recently lost someone do mourn of course, in general, this holiday is not a scary or sad, but an enormous celebration of life, and honoring of death.
Kids and adults alike enjoy dresses up and painting their faces to resemble skeletons. The main city of Oaxaca has many street parades known as calendas in different neighborhoods with fireworks, dancers, puppets, music and costumes.
This magical holiday is not only about bright and colorful festivities but about the connection of the living with the dead. It is a beautiful celebration that we can't wait to participate in again. 'Til then, we hope you enjoyed a glimpse into Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca!