Mexico’s festivities for the annual Dead of the Dead holiday (Día de los Muertos in Spanish) will kick off in less than two weeks, so now is the time to make some travel plans if you haven't already. And if you don't have the time or the funds for a last-minute getaway, keep this saved so you can plan your Day of the Dead 2018 trip well in advance.
From October 31 to November 2 of every year, cities, towns, and villages across Mexico celebrate the Day of the Dead. On the first day, All Hallows Eve, children are encouraged to prepare altars for spirits of dead children, known as angelitos ("little angels). The spirits of these dead children and infants are to visit the living on the next day, All Saints Day, which is also known as Día de los Angelitos ("Day of the Little Angels") or Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents"). Deceased adults are honored on the third day, All Souls Day, which is itself known as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos ("Day of the Deceased"). On this day, families gather at cemeteries to decorate the graves and tombs of their loved ones who have passed on.
Symbols and tokens of the holiday include the widespread use of marigolds, colorful sugar skulls, cardboard skeletons, tissue paper decorations, incense, fruits, nuts, and other traditional foods and decorations. The exact offerings at each tomb vary based on the personality of the deceased, as loved ones will often bring their favorite foods and drinks, poems, photos, toys, and other memorabilia. It’s also important to sweep or otherwise clean up the graves during this time as well.
Despite the somewhat morbid themes, all the traditions are not somber. In fact, in most places, enormous parties and celebrations are thrown, involving musical and theatrical performances, parades, dances, and other activities. The exact rituals, however, can vary from town to town and city to city, and this article will break it down for seven different locations around Mexico that really know how to honor their dead.
—Editor Syjil Ashraf and Matt Sulem contributed to this roundup.