Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead is the most time-honored and expressive holiday of Oaxaca. It is an example of the harmonious relationship between Christianity and the pre-hispanic traditions found in the state of Oaxaca.

Although Día de los Muertos is recognized all over Mexico, Oaxaca has become known for it’s ornately rich celebrations venerating the return of their deceased loved ones on November 1st and 2nd.

In the state capital, Oaxaca City, the festivities of Día de los Muertos begin a week before the 1st and 2nd of November with the commencement of the “Plaza de los Muertos.” This elaborate initiation takes place in each city market, but principally in the Mercado de Abastos. In each plaza one may find all the necessary items to prepare for the arrival of the dead including the ingredients for traditional dishes such as mole negro, pan de yema, and Oaxacan chocolate. One will also find a grand assortment of flowers used to decorate the sacred altars dedicated to the deceased.

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Please view our Itinerary or download a more detailed printer-friendly brochure of our Day of the Dead Tour.

The Oaxacan altars are most commonly built on October 30th and October 31st in the homes of the Oaxacan people. The altar is generally set on a table, and then it is wrapped with a tablecloth, white sheet or with perforated tissue paper. Sugarcane is bound to the foot of the table and run high over overhead into the shape of a triumphal arch. On the morning of October 31st the offerings are placed on the altars; these offerings consist of exquisite dishes that the relatives will come to savour the aromas of. Among these offerings are the delicious Oaxacan mole, freshly seasoned by the women, the delicious nicuatole (corn jelly), pumpkin with black sugar, sugarcane, tejocotes (small wild apples), the delicious pan de muerto (bread of the dead), and the exquisite chocolate ground by stone. There is also an endless medley of regional fruit consisting of oranges, limes, bananas, jicamas, wild apples, nuts, peanuts, medlar, pineapples, and also cooked chayote.

It is an old belief that the dead, after their long pilgrimage from the other life, arrive on earth tired and thirsty. Because of this belief, a gourd or glass filled with water is placed on the altar for them, as well as the other food offerings. The dead are welcome and expected to bask in the essence of this splendid fervour.

 On the last day of October, the procession of souls begins with the children. They visit the altars in the late afternoon and, upon their arrival, they feast upon the food laid out for them. November 2nd is reserved for the souls of the adults who have passed on, but now return. They too shall have their fill.


The flower of the dead – the sweet-smelling “cempasuchil” (marigolds) – as well as the oil lamps and the white or yellow bees wax candles adorned with black tissue paper are the final decorative accents.

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In villages outside the city of Oaxaca, the celebration of Muertos is most commonly known as Todos Santos, or All Saints. This day is often the most celebrated day of the year. The altars found in the homes of the villagers and in cemeteries are honored by all. It is most commonly located in the cemetery and during the course of Muertos, one will find the graves wonderfully decorated with candles, flowers and food.

During this time the living join together to rejoice the return of their ancestors. Visiting cemeteries and homes enables one to enjoy the richness of this celebration. The energy of the occasion is awesome. All present rejoice in the happy reunions, and you too shall feel the presence of the departed souls returned!

In addition to visiting homes and cemeteries, one may experience the cultural richness of this time by getting involved in the Comparsas, theatrical performances representing the return of the dead, which take place in various outlying villages.

You will find that there is much to see and do in the city of Oaxaca and in the outlying villages. For this reason, we offer you the opportunity to partake in a number of different tours to villages, but also encourage you to stay in the city to experience the altars and comparsas with us. This freedom enables you to design your own days, yet guarantees an all-encompassing series of events sure to deliver the diverse wonders of Oaxaca’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.

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