Dying to celebrate Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) but can’t afford a trip to Mexico? Here are six festivals in the United States where you can celebrate this colorful, fascinating holiday!
Although Day of the Dead is often associated with Halloween in the United States, it’s actually a holiday in Mexico where communities get together to celebrate and remember their loved ones, and to pray for their spiritual journey. Traditionally there are festivals and parades, and family visits to the cemetery to honor the dead and leave offerings. Graves are decorated with marigolds, and a feast is prepared with sweetened breads in the shape of skulls or twisted bones. It’s a holiday of remembrance and celebration.
So where can you celebrate Day of the Dead here in the United States? Many larger cities across the nation have their own Dia de los Muertos festivals. You can run a Sugar Skull 5k (in costume of course), you can revel in a parade or enter an altar contest, and you can help celebrate your ancestors in style at these United States Day of the Dead gatherings.
Muerto Fest, San Antonio, Texas
This free two-day festival features altar decorating contests (with cash prizes), live music, all the sugar skulls you could possibly eat, and a drum and puppet procession. Find maps, arrange transport to the Historic Arts Village and plan out your days for Muerto Fest here.
All Souls Procession, Tucson
All Souls Procession is all about creativity and community in Tucson, Arizona. There are craft workshops for papier mache masks and flower crowns, and you can learn how to decorate an altar in honor of the dead. “The Procession is a sanctuary for community members from all walks of life to express their grief and loss in a celebration of creative energy and rejoicing of life.” Every year, 150,000 festival goers take to the streets of Tucson for the celebration and parade. 2017 is the 28th year for All Souls Procession, where you are encouraged to participate rather than spectate in the 3-day festival. “The procession is more about honoring and celebrating the dead in whatever ways feel authentic to all participants, no matter what cultures, countries, or traditions they embrace.”
Olvera Street Dia de los Muertos, Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, the Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of life – “it is not a time to mourn our loved ones, rather it is a time to remember the lives they lead and the many things they enjoyed during that life.” For nine days, visitors to Olvera Street can explore decorated altars, have their faces painted, take part in a traditional Mayan blessing, and of course run off all your sweet treats with the Run of the Dead! And of course, don’t forget the live entertainment with Aztec dancers, Ballet Bravo and the Dia de los Muertos procession.
Mano a Mano, New York City
This three-day Day of the Dead Festival features live music, workshops on altar decorating and ornate paper flowers, mariachi performances, and the Cake Boss team will be there for some authentic pan de muertos baking.
Day of the Dead, Chicago
Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood holds one of the largest Day of the Dead celebrations in the United States. The soccer field fills with altars honoring the dead, live music and freshly painted sugar skull faces take over the streets, pan de muerto is free, and the Chicago National Museum for Mexican Art opens its doors to exhibits showcasing Dia de los Muertos. In addition, Chicago also has the Carrera de los Muertos 5k and a parade with giant puppets.
Day of the Dead, Fort Lauderdale
Florida also goes all out to celebrate the departed. At their Day of the Dead festival, you can build your own ofrendas, or altars, to decorate with sugar skulls, candles, momentos and photographs. There are puppet parades and processionals lead by mariachi bands to the cemeteries, where families can rejoice in the memories of their loved ones. There is also a folklore stage with traditional Aztec dancers.
While you’re trying to decide where you’ll celebrate the Day of the Dead, I’ll leave you with a picture of my own little gypsy enjoying Dia de los Muertos!