While a bit early for a Halloween post, I figured it was a nice time to make your holiday plans for this coming November.
Day of the Dead in Oaxaca
Day of the Dead celebrations have taken place in Mexico for over 2500 years. And while I have celebrated Halloween in North America since I was a young child, I was thrilled at the opportunity last year to be in Mexico for Day of the Dead, ‘Dia de Meurtos’ - it was incredible!
A Feast For The Senses
Celebrated in various areas in Mexico, one of the largest, most beautiful and traditional celebrations for Day of the Dead takes place in Oaxaca City. The death of family and friends are honoured through the building of alters, offering of foods and gifts, playing of live music, and overnight visits to the graves of loved ones. There are also many parades and elaborate costumes worn by children and adults alike - It is a feast for the senses.
Parade of Youth
Below a parade of youth with elaborate costumes made of corn husks and other natural materials and a living float:
The main festivities take place on November 1 and 2, but there are activities leading up to the main event, weeks in advance. On November 1, the death of children and young ones are celebrated, also known as Day of the Innocents, ‘Dia de los Inocentes' or Day of the Little Angels, ‘Dia de los Angelitos; On November 2, Day of the Dead ‘Dia de los Muertos or Dia de los Difunctos’ is celebrated.
Often alters are created by families and business remembering loved ones. Marigolds and Skulls are some of the common items used in decorations, as well as natural elements, including beans, grains and nuts.
Visits to the Cemeteries
On November 1 and 2, families, friends and visitors go to various cemeteries around Oaxaca. The cemetery in Oaxaca as well as the two in Xoxcotlán (Xoxo) are amongst the most highly visited. In particular, in Xoxo - beautiful sand tapestry alters can also be seen.
Day and Night Vigils
Families may spend the day and/or the night at the grave sites of loved ones, talking, praying, sometimes singing, and drinking. Graves are decorated with flowers, day of the dead bread, and candles. Families may also leave certain specific offerings for their loved ones - such as a can of beer or a coke. It was the first time that I'd seen a cemetery as a venue for a party!
Calavera Catrina has become an icon of Day of the Dead in Mexico. She originated as a zinc etching by famous Mexico Print Maker José Guadalupe Posada in 1910, La Calavera Garbancera, a skull with the hat of a bourgeoisie in the European style. Catrina's fame tho came from a mural by Diego Rivera (the partner of Frieda Kahlo) in 1948 which he pained in Mexico City, Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central - 'Dream of a Sunday afternoon in Alameda'. (Wikipedia, 2014)
In Oaxaca there is a parade of Catrinas, and my friends and I decided to get into the festive spirit. We had our faces painted by a make-up artist at a neighbourhood costume shop. Photo credit for second photo from the top to Giovanni Ricco.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Some before and after shots, Top to Bottom: Tara, Jessica and myself. Photo Credit top right to Giovanni Ricco, and bottom row to Tara Whalley.
If you have ever considered going to Oaxaca, in addition to being one of the most amazing colonial cities in Mexico, the Day of the Dead celebrations are unforgettable!
While a very popular time to visit Oaxaca, I found the crowds still to be quite manageable.
Bus distance from Mexico City
Oaxaca is a six hour bus ride from Mexico City. There are many buses that leave daily, but during this busy time, try to reserve you ticket at least a few days in advance.
Accommodations should also be booked in advance
Que Pasa Oaxaca
Are you headed to Oaxaca and want to know what to do? Check out this blog - Que Pasa Oaxaca