Día de los Muertos

First of all I feel really unqualified to write anything about Día de los Muertos. There are so many celebrations and so many colourful, vivid displays to see it’s really hard to keep up with it all! And we have only lived in Mexico City a year, so this is only our second Día de los Muertos.

The best explanation really is the Disney Coco movie.

Día de los Muertos is celebrated across Mexico as families, streetscapes, public areas and museums build their ofrendas and decorate for the season. An ofrenda is an altar to honour the life of loved ones who have died. The ofrenda has four elements: water (water or favourite drinks), earth (food, like bread), wind (the cut-out paper bunting or papel picado), and fire (candles). And there are also photos of loved ones.


Other elements include sugar or chocolate skulls, pan muerto (a bun with nubs like bones on it and covered in sugar), cempasúchil (yellow marigolds that are the biggest marigolds I have ever seen!) which are set out so the yellow petals offer a path for the spirits to find the family’s homes.

Día de los Muertos is not Hallowe’en and is celebrated on November 2nd. In fact our children have it as a day off of school.

We have stayed in Mexico City for the Hallowe’en and Día de los Muertos days and enjoyed parades down Reforma to the Zócalo, ofrendas around the city, and displays of Catrinas (the skeleton lady with the fancy feathered hat). Here are some things we have enjoyed seeing in Mexico City for Día de los Muertos last year and what we will try and see this year (2022).

I find timeout Mexico is the best place to find out about the events. And also the Mexican Secretaria de Cultura.

  • This year, 2022, Saturday, October 22 the Alebrijes Parade will start at noon in the Zócalo and go up Reforma.
  • Sunday, October 23 the Catrina Parade will leave the by the Angel on Reforma at 11 a.m. and go towards the Zócalo.
  • Saturday, October 29 there will be a community procession at 11 a.m. starting from Chapultepec towards the Zócalo.
  • Saturday, October 29 in the evening, there will be the Día de los Muertos Parade, leaving from Puerta de los Leones (the lion’s gate) at Chapultepec Park at 5 p.m. and going down Reforma to the Zócalo.
The Día de los Muertos parade on Reforma in 2021.

Nighttime Light Experience
Chapultepec Park in the first section (by the Estela de Luz and Puerta de los Leones at Reforma) will have the night time light experience where they have brightly lit displays weaving a path through the park. It reminded me of a Christmas lights display (but with skulls and skeletons instead). Music and food stalls are also set up. Go early as the line gets really long very quickly. It is from 19:00-22:00 on the 29 and 30 of October and 1 and 2 of November. If you go with children you can buy light-up ropes or headbands to wear. I found it was very dark very quickly and hard to see where the children were.

You can find ofrendas in most places around the city. The museums have really nice big ones, there are some in San Angel, in the churches in the centre such as Templo de San Francisco, the Cuidadela craft market had one, and even the shops will have ofrendas. The Ofrenda Monumental will be in the Zócalo from October 28 to November 2.

Templo San Francisco church’s display in 2021 in the centro.

The alebrijes are absolutely incredibly huge sculptures which look so light and delicate. They are usually very skinny, brightly painted with swirls and dots and are a combination of a couple of animals all put together. They were created by paper mache artist, Pedro Linares, who in 1936 became so ill he had hallucinations of mythical type beasts, such as a frog with a rooster’s head, and the creatures were saying “Alebrije!” When he was well he recreated the figures and they were born into Mexican folk art. (Pepita in Coco is an Alebrije.)

Alebrijes and Catrinas on display after the parade in the Zócalo. (2021)

The last year the Catrinas and Alebrijes were on display in the Zócalo for the first week of November and then in MAP (Museo Arte Popular) which has an incredible gift shop as well. We did a nice walk from Bellas Artes, through the Alameda Central Park, to the Zócalo and then back up via MAP to see the sites.

The craneos are the skulls, and in 2022 there will be a display of 54 giant ones down Reforma from October 28 until November 2nd. There will be an exposition of Catrinas on Reforma during the same time.

The 25th annual Mega Ofrenda UNAM celebrating 100 years of Muralism in Mexico will be in Plaza Santo Domingo and Plaza 23 de mayo on November 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to 21:00.

Let me know what else there is not to miss in Mexico City for Día de los Muertos! I have heard the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo museums/houses always have a nice ofrenda display.

Images from our downtown walk last year.
The Zócalo had ofrendas and these displays of colourful carpets that are actually made of coloured sand.

Published by mamashinetravel

I'm a wife, mother of three children, Canadian Maritimer living in Mexico and planning getaways for the next available long weekend! I'm a Come From Away, but happy to be where I'm at.

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