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Day of the Dead

Oaxaca, Mexico

Day of the Dead photo
Photograph by Greg Willis

Day of the Dead

Words by Paul Dodson

On the night of November 1, Mexico's cemeteries come alive with prayers and song, as, in the glow of flickering candlelight, relatives make offerings of food, drink, toys and flowers at the gravesides of relatives passed. The celebration is known as the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). It's a fascinating fusion of ancient indigenous beliefs and Christian holy days which coincides with All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

The first day is the Day of the Angels (Dia de los Angelitos), dedicated to children who have passed, whilst the second day remembers adult relatives. Children get excited weeks before El Dia de los Muertos as coffin- and skeleton-shaped sweets, special bread, candied pumpkin and papier mache skeleton puppets fill the shops and markets.

Things really get going in Oaxaca on 31 October, when people create elaborate altars at home with offerings of favorite foods, tequila and cigars for dead relatives, along with an arch of brightly coloured flowers. Lively events take place in Oaxaca's main square, as well as in restaurants and many of the theatres throughout the city. People erect public altars with flower offerings. Shop owners join in the fun displaying papier mache and wax skeletons posed as macabre professionals at work or at play.

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Day of the Dead Video

Day of the Dead Address

The cemeteries and squares of Oaxaca City

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