Most people hang up their spooky skulls the night of October 31st, but that’s when the fiesta is just beginning in Mexico. Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico to honor those who have passed on. Instead of being a somber experience, this Mexican tradition celebrates the dead with ofrendas, or alters, laden with food and gifts the loved one enjoyed when they were living. The holiday believes that a passageway between the real world and the spirit world opens so our deceased loved ones can come back and visit us.
A Tradition Celebrated with Colors, Photos, Candles and Food
It’s said that on November 1st, the children who have passed come back as Angels to visit and on November 2nd, the adults have their turn. Families prepare at cemeteries or create the ofrendas in their homes. They decorate them with bright colors, candles, photos, and food. Marigolds, or cempasuchil, are placed at the ofrendas because it is thought the bright color and pungent smell will guide the spirits back to the living. Ofrendas showcase earth, water, fire, and air. The air is usually represented by papel picado, a brightly colored perforated paper. Aztecs chiseled spirit figures on wood and the decor of the papel picado is representative of that.
The most iconic item of the holiday are the skulls, or calaveras. The calaveras were used during rituals and were passed on as trophies during battles. Today they are usually made of sugar and elaborately decorated with glitter, beads, colorful paint, and are usually presented as being happy.
Day of the Dead Spreading in South Florida
Although Day of the Dead has been celebrated for centuries, it’s becoming more and more mainstream. Even Hollywood has embraced the holiday. 2014’s The Book of Life, by Twentieth Century Fox, and the more recent 2017’s Coco, by Disney and Pixar, have achieved high praise as well as major financial success. Even here in South Florida we have our own celebration. This year celebrates the 10 year anniversary of our Day of the Dead celebration. The brainchild of puppeteer and organizer Jim Hammond, this Family friendly Day of the Dead event in Fort Lauderdale has made the top 10 ranking in USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Thrillist.com, Afar Magazine, and recently the Travel Channel.
On November 2, the fiesta starts at 2 pm at the New River Inn in Las Olas for the Meso-American Indigenous Welcome Event. Take a stroll west to the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale (1 East Las Olas Blvd). At 3 pm the museum will have presentations from UN Ambassador, Xoco, DOTD inspired short films, pop art exhibits, and ‘Baile de Los Alebrijes’, a dance inspired by Mexican Folk Art. Cross the street to Huizenga Plaza (32 East Las Olas Blvd) for performances on the Mexihka Stage featuring traditional Mexican dancers, musicians, and artisans. From 3 pm to 8pm see the Harvest Festival traditions seen throughout Europe at Esplanda Park (400 SW 2nd St). At 6pm, the not to miss event is the Annual Skeleton Processional. Follow amazing Catrinas, Frida Khalo’s, Mariachi’s, and more parade from Huizinga Plaza through the ‘Quetzalcoatl Trail’ to ‘Calaveras Plaza’ for the Folklorico stage. Food trucks, performances, and major people watching abound. There’s a Boneyard Bandstand at America’s Backyard with live performances until 4 am.
Tequila is a Must Have!
What’s a Mexican party without Tequila? The Tequila Stage at Stache Drinking Den & Coffee Bar will have a “Day of the Dead VIP Tequila Experience.” There will be 10 premium tequila brands showcasing cocktail presentations and tastings. After the Skeleton Processional arrives there will be live performances all night. Take a breather inside Revolution Live for the sounds of the Grateful Dead inspired band for ‘Night of the Dead’. There will also be interactive puppet and mask performances throughout the evening.
With so many wonderful ways to celebrate the Day of the Dead, this celebration is amazing for people of all ages. After all, everyone dies.
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