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Want an alternative to Halloween? How to celebrate the Day of the Dead


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When you think of the Day of the Dead, you probably conjure up images of sugar skulls and costumes in celebration of the occasion. Sounding perhaps all too similar to Halloween, the Mexican festivities couldn’t be more different to the popular holiday. While your Halloween celebrations are finishing on the 31st, the Day of the Dead (1st-2nd November) is just beginning.

The Mexican Londoner (@themexlondoner) explains to TNS that the festivities are, “without a doubt… one of the most exciting places on Earth.” The country literally transforms with colourful decorations in anticipation of Dia de Los Muertos, weeks before the event is due to begin.

The holiday is spilt over two days, All Saints Day on 1st November and Day of the Dead on the 2nd, and is traditionally for families to welcome the spirits on their return home.  Whilst many people no longer believe in this, it is an opportunity to honour and remember beloved friends and relatives who have passed onto the hereafter.

An altar with the favourite food and drink of the departed is placed in the home and is usually decorated with photographs and items which were cherished alongside the iconic sugar skulls and marigolds – which are in bloom this time of the year. Food is also made for the day including Pan de Muerto – translating to Bread of the Dead which creates a welcoming aroma around the home.

Many Mexicans visit cemeteries to lay flowers and decorate tombs. It can be a very personal experience - however, it is a joyful celebration with many public displays to enjoy and witness.

Patzcuaro Lake in Michoacan and Mixquic in Mexico City are just few of the places known for their celebrations, however the atmosphere is evident throughout Mexico. Although many celebrations do take place in cemeteries, travellers to the country are more than welcome to join in. The Mexican Londoner describes it as “very impressive to see a place usually isolated covered in hundreds of candles… It’s the perfect time to celebrate the life of our dead relatives or for many, just throw a good party… Death in Mexico is a festivity and for us alive it reminds us that one day we will not escape it.”

Celebrations have become huge in recent years, resulting in tourists visiting the country to soak in the culture. There are plenty of activities to keep the celebrations going and markets are full of goods dedicated to the day.

“No one will take offense if non-believers join in, we Mexicans are always very proud of showing our customs.”

If you want to experience the fun on your own doorstep, some venues such as the Rich Mix in London will be hosting their own Day of the Dead themed night. Universities with a Mexican society most likely will be hosting their own events to honour the day and many Mexican themed restaurants will be displaying altars to mark the occasion - if you really want to get into the spirit, some even sell Pan de Muerto.

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