For over a thousand years, as early as the second century AD, believers of the Christian faith have been remembering and celebrating the lives of saints and martyrs of the faith—those known and unknown. In the 9th century, this holiday would be recognized as All Saints’ Day.
In Western Christian traditions, All Saints’ Day (also All Saints, All Hallows, Hallowmas) is celebrated on November 1st. In conjunction with All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day (also known as the Day the Dead) is celebrated on November 2nd to remember and celebrate the lives of those in our lives—family members, relatives, and friends—who have passed.
From Spain to Mexico and the Philippines, these holidays are celebrated around the world. Here are some especially interesting places to experience All Saints & the Day of the Dead around the world.
All Saints and Day of the Dead Festivities Around the World
Portugal, Spain: It’s customary in countries like Portugal, Spain, and Mexico for families to make offerings to the saints during All Saints and to the departed souls of their relatives and friends during All Souls. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio, is performed—a play featuring the protagonist Don Juan who is disgraced and then prays to the saints and the dead—for intercession.
Latin America: The most exciting place to experience Day of the Dead is in Latin America, and especially Mexico, where festivities range from the making of skulls from sugar, visiting the cemetery, setting up an altar to the dead at home, cooking and offering food to the dead, parades, festivals, and more. One of the most iconic symbols is the Calavera Catrina or the image of the “elegant skull,” a skeleton wearing the clothes of the well-to-do Mexican men and women of the 19th century, made into small figures or toys are sold during festival time to be placed at gravesites or home altars.
Oaxaca, Mexico: During the Day of the Dead the traditional Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead) is baked all over the country but Oaxaca is known for making it the best. The bread is made in the shape of skulls, skeletons, or bones and is made from one of three traditional egg bread recipes, covered with sugar, and offered to the dead as a gift. In the evening, Carnival-like parades are held throughout the city.
Janitzio and Patzcuaro, Mexico: In the towns of Janitzio and Patzcuaro, the town squares and gardens come alive with colorful costumes, skeleton masks, and devil masks as the townspeople honor and celebrate the dead with dancing and candles. One of the most enchanting sights is when evening falls and Patzcuaro lake is filled with the lit-up boats of fishermen. This is easily the most popular tourist destination to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico.
Mexico City, Mexico: Just south of the Mexico City centre in Mixquic, the market and street stalls sell many Day of the Dead trinkets, including skulls, Mexican marigolds, candles, and other trinkets often placed before the graves of the dead. On the evening of the Day of the Dead, a procession carrying a cardboard coffin lead locals to the cemetery where a candlelight vigil takes place.
Guatemala: Along with visits to the cemetery and paying respects to the dead with gifts and candles, the Day of the Dead in many parts of Guatemala is celebrated by flying large kites and serving fiambre to guests and relatives: a salad dish served only on this day, consisting of any dozens of ingredients, including sausage, pickled vegetables, cheese, olive, chicken, and etc.
For more on visiting or travelling to Mexico, go to www.visitmexico.com.
By Gizelle Lau for TripAtlas.com