This Time Next Year: you could be cel­e­brat­ing Day of the Dead in Mex­ico

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Contents -

Mex­ico’s home - grown par­al­lel to Hal­loween brings an ex­tra splash of colour and emo­tion as the nights grow longer. The event has shot up in global fame re­cently, and in­spired last year’s Dis­ney film Coco. Ho­tels around some of the most pho­to­genic fes­tiv­i­ties book out months ahead, so pen­cil in a trip for au­tumn 2019 to give your­self a chance. WHAT IS IT? Ev­ery year, Mex­i­cans pay trib­ute to de­parted loved ones with ofren­das (dec­o­rated me­mo­rial al­tars) and other fes­tive rit­u­als. The Aztecs and other indige­nous peo­ples be­lieved that the dead would briefly re­turn around the end of the maize har­vest, and that it was dis­re­spect­ful to shed tears for them. When the Span­ish colonised Mex­ico, these tra­di­tions mixed with Catholic prac­tices. WHEN TO SEE IT Strictly speak­ing, Día de Muer­tos means 2 Novem­ber, All Souls’ Day, but it’s usual to be­gin the party the day be­fore (All Saints’ Day), or 31 Oc­to­ber – Hal­loween. WHERE TO SEE IT The cel­e­bra­tion was once as­so­ci­ated ex­clu­sively with Mex­ico’s south and cen­tre, where indige­nous cul­ture is strong­est. Though it has now been made a na­tion­wide event, north­ern ar­eas such as Baja Cal­i­for­nia are still not the best places to ex­pe­ri­ence it. Pa­rades and other big pub­lic events are an­other sign of the Day of the Dead’s grow­ing ap­peal, but it was orig­i­nally – and largely re­mains – a fam­ily-level ob­ser­vance, with can­dlelit vig­ils held at ceme­ter­ies, and ofren­das put up at home. We’ve listed six places (op­po­site) with dif­fer­ent takes on this fi­esta of joy­ful mor­bid­ity. HOW TO SEE IT Pa­rades aren’t held all over, but ex­pect to see calav­eras (or­na­men­tal skulls and skele­tons) and other hol­i­day items on sale, ceme­ter­ies at their busiest, and ofren­das in town squares and pub­lic places. G Ad­ven­tures runs a seven-day Día de Muer­tos-cen­tred trip to Oax­aca; the 2018 de­par­ture was priced from £1,075 (gad­ven­tures.co.uk). GET­TING THERE Mex­ico City is the best en­try point over­all (from £450), but Cancún has di­rect flights from the UK, and is good for the Yu­catán in the south­east (from £300).

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