We’ve all seen that incredible opening scene in the last James Bond film, Spectre, right? And no doubt, after watching, you were intrigued to find out more about where it was shot. (By the way, if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I highly recommend you give it a watch).
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what was being celebrated in the film, it was Mexico’s world famous Day of the Dead holiday, or Dia de los Muertos. It’s not until the end of October, but I thought I’d tell you a bit more about it now, so you’ve got plenty of time to get your Mexico holidays booked to join in the festivities.
So what is Day of the Dead?
Day of the Dead is a huge event that takes place in Mexico each year and is celebrated by Mexicans around the world too. It takes place at the same time that we have Halloween, except it goes on for a few days. So it’s marked from 31 October to 2 November. It’s certainly not as morbid as its name would suggest, as it’s actually a celebration of the life of your family’s ancestors who are no longer with you.
Traditionally, people’s Day of the Dead celebrations have always been a very private affair, taking place with just family and friends in their own homes. But it’s the popularity of the latest James Bond film that’s turning it into a much more flamboyant affair, with more and more big parades and events being held across the country, not just within the home.
As part of Day of the Dead, Mexicans will dress in colourful costumes and will paint the iconic sugar skull onto their faces. They’ll also decorate an altar or shrine to honour those members of the family who have passed away.
Where’s the best place to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico?
As I’ve already mentioned, a lot of people celebrate Day of the Dead with friends and family, either behind closed doors or at candle-lit ceremony sites. But following the success of Spectre, Mexico City held its very first Day of the Dead parade last year, in an attempt to recreate the buzz of the film’s opening scene. It saw thousands of people take to the streets alongside floats, performers, actors, acrobats, dancers, musicians and even giant skeleton marionettes. The whole affair is a mass of elaborate costumes and a sea of sugar skulls.
But if you’re wanting to tie in your Day of the Dead experience with a beach holiday to Mexico, then you’re in luck too. There are plenty of ways to take part in Day of the Dead events in and around Cancun, so you certainly don’t have to miss out. Here are three places you can try:
1) Downtown Cancun: The city holds its own festival to commemorate Day of the Dead, called Festival del Día de Muertos ‘Cena de Ánimas’, or Day of the Dead ‘Dinner of Souls’. The festival sees over 450 different artists performing across the city, lots of great food and a nightly parade through the streets.
2) Alltournative: This is a company that operates across the Cancun area and offers people the opportunity to enjoy sustainable natural and cultural tours. For Day of the Dead, you can experience the traditional Mayan way of celebrating and join a local Mayan family. You’ll learn all about decorating the altar, take part in a ceremony performed by shamans in a cenote and get to sample some mouth-watering Hanal Pixan cuisine at the ‘Dinner of Souls’.
3) Xcarat Eco Park: Each year, the popular theme park hosts a number of different activities to celebrate Day of the Dead. The Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte showcases theatre, dance, exhibits and much more, as well as a children’s pavilion where they can take part in their own activities.
Which is the best hotel to stay in for Day of the Dead?
If you’re wanting to enjoy the beaches of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, but still have plenty of Day of the Dead activities to get involved in right there on your doorstep, there are a couple of great hotels you can choose from.
Occidental at Xcaret Destination
As I said above, there’s always lots going on for the Day of the Dead in Xcaret Eco Park, and you can stay right in the heart of all the action. Occidental at Xcaret Destination is located in the grounds of the park, so you won’t have far to go to take part in all the festivities.
Sandos Caracol Eco Resort
This is one of the best hotels to stay in if you’re fascinated by all things Day of the Dead. They have so many different activities taking place throughout the course of the week; you’ll be able to learn so much and really get involved. There’s everything from parades and dinners to face painting and making your own sugar skull.
Take a look at this video, showing what Day of the Dead is like at Sandos Caracol Eco Resort:
Did you know much about Mexico’s Day of the Dead traditions? Are you intrigued to find out more? Let me know in the comments below.
And don’t forget, there’s still plenty of time to get your holiday booked in order to celebrate over there this year.