The Days of the Dead spans Halloween on October 31 and continues through November 1st and 2nd. In some popular tourist destinations -- such as the Xcaret eco-theme park and Playa del Carmen in the Mayan Riviera -- visitors can experience festivities.
Days of the Dead
On October 31, Mexican families prepare for All Saints Day or the Day of the Dead, which is November 1: a day to remember those who have passed on. To honor the spirits of their relatives, families make colorful altars in their homes using caramels, flowers, photographs, candles, and favorite food and drinks of departed loved ones.
On November 1st the altars are lit, cemeteries are cleaned up, and graves are given fresh paint and flowers. Kids play with toys like skeletons and witch dolls, bought at markets that are filled with colorful spooky knick-knacks at this time of year. Later in the day, before dinner, much like "trick-or-treating", kids go out to request “calaveritas”: a gift of money or a skull-shaped candy. Special dinners include candies, apples, sweet rice with frijoles, sweet potatoes, and pan de muertos ("dead bread") shaped like a skull.
On November 2, families get together in the cemeteries to reminisce about loved ones; these are not somber gatherings but more like a party, often with a mariachi band and fireworks. In some places, families stay all night in the cemetery, having picnic suppers, talking, and playing music.
For more about this unique holiday see Day of the Dead Celebrations at About.com's Mexico Travel website.
Tourists need to find a public place where visitors are welcome for Day of the Dead activities. About.com's Guide for Mexico Travel lists top Destinations for Day of the Dead and includes the Xcaret theme park, a place that's easily accessible for families staying at the many all inclusive resorts in the Mayan Riviera south of Cancun.
Xcaret is a popular "eco-archeological" theme park with many fun features including an underground river float and a recreated Mayan Village. For the Days of the Dead, 2011 brings the 6th annual "Festival of Life and Death Traditions" from October 30th until November 2nd, with a "beautiful collage of rituals, offerings, games, theater productions, dance, music, visual arts, and much more." Read more at the Xcaret website.
Also in the Mayan Riviera, Playa del Carmen is a popular tourist destination and here too visitors can experience Day of the Dead activities. Celebrations start on Oct. 30 and finish Nov. 2 with an evening stroll in the shopping mall area. Local costumed artists on the street corners sing and dance. At Constitutiones Avenue and 5th Street, there's a grand celebration in honor of dead loved ones.
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