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Day of the Dead: Tradition and Celebrations

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.

Photo: Lonely Planet

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.

“Coco” showcases Día de los Muertos celebration in a touching and fun way.

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,, 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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* is an independent publication, not affiliated with the City of Oakland Park.

Desiree Avila


Désirée Ávila has called Oakland Park her home for over 33 years. In addition to publishing, Désirée has been featured in print publications, locally and abroad. Désirée was an award winning teacher for 10 years and has a doctoral level education in Educational Technology. She is currently a licensed Florida Realtor® and is committed to a high-level of professionalism.

Désirée consistently professionally develops herself and has earned several different professional designations and certifications in real estate including the PSA, e-Pro, AHWD, SRS, ABR, and SFR. She was also awarded the C2EX, Commitment to Excellence award by the National Association for Realtors (NAR). This award is given to Realtors® that distinguish themselves for their commitment to excellence in the real estate industry.

She is esteemed by her real estate colleagues and has consistently received 5 star reviews from her clients. Her philosophy about real estate is that being a Realtor® is a way of teaching and helping people, and in the process a real estate transaction may occur, that is to say her foremost priority is and has always been about helping others.

She is dedicated to her hometown of Oakland Park and works consistently on building and fostering a strong community. She is passionate about photography and loves to read books about history ; the more detail the better! In addition to English, Désirée is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian.

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